Schubert: Symphonies 1, 3 & 7 - Nott
Tudor CD 7141
Classical - Orchestral
Schubert: Symphony No. 1 in D major D.82, Symphony No. 3 in D major D.200, Symphony No. 7 (8) in B minor D.759 "Unfinished"
Jonathan Nott (conductor)
Review by John Broggio - August 10, 2006
This, the first disc of a projected complete Schubert Symphony cycle, has mixed virtues. On the positive side, the Bamberger Symphoniker play magnificently for Nott and respond to his every whim. Unfortunately, Nott's whims will not suit every taste - the "Unfinished" symphony is given an almost Brucknerian reading here!
Starting from the opening of the disc, we are presented with an ebullient account of the first symphony. Unlike some who I have heard conduct this symphony, Nott convincingly re-establishes the tempo of the opening Adagio when it returns midway through the movement without disturbing the underlying pulse of the piece. The following Andante is played with great strength due to the relatively large forces (cf to many recordings nowadays) that recalls the shadow of Beethoven. A lively Menuetto - it is questionable whether the tempo adopted is really Allegretto but I would prefer quick than slow - precedes the exuberant finale which is carried off with real vitality and flair.
The third symphony shares many of the characteristics of the earlier work and also receives a similarly good interpretation. After the stately introduction, the Allegro con brio dances away with the theme in the woodwind - absolutely lovely playing of lovely music. The Allegretto (in place of a genuine slow movement, a la Beethoven's eighth) is played with real tenderness and just the right touch of gentle good humour. The bold accented notes of the Menuetto are delivered with just the right amount of weight before the Presto vivace concludes proceedings with a tremendous sense of controlled energy.
The "Unfinished" is altogether given different treatment; not altogether inappropriate given the transformation of Schubert's musical language from the earlier works. On this disc, the number of the symphony (7) follows the Neue Schubert-Gesamtausgabe, upon which this cycle is to be based. The evidence of all the modifications that Abbado used in his cycle on DG is not always apparent but most of the changes are of a minor nature (and this work was, arguably, the weak point of Abbado's cycle).
More controversially, the tempo of the first movement adopted by Nott is very much a moderated Allegro! I have heard some play this masterpiece slower but that was from a quite distant time. This very much looks forwards in time to the great works of Anton Bruckner in pace. The phrasing is mercifully not so heavy-handed but Nott gives the opening movement a very sinister tone indeed; own its own terms, this works well but some may well prefer a less Romantic approach. Nott and the Bamberger Symphoniker then give a refreshingly simple yet beautiful account of the Andante con moto before a fragment of the projected third movement is played. This disturbs the mood that concludes the normal performing practice in this work, so be ready to have your finger on the remote control if you don't react well to having the peace broken! The fragment is not especially interesting and I can understand why Schubert left this unfinished now that I have heard it.
The recording is just a touch overly reverberant but the clarity of the (large) forces allow all the details to be heard.
Apart from how I can imagine some reacting to the "Unfinished", this is a recommendable disc and a promising start to the cycle on Tudor.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net