Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Symphonies: No 4 in C minor, D417 ‘Tragic’ [27.57]
No 5 in B flat major, D485 [27.05]
No 8 in B minor, D759 ‘Unfinished* [23.54]
No 9 in C major, D944 ‘Great’** [52.41]
Suite: ‘Rosamunde’ D797 [20.12]
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Gunther Wand
** NDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gunther Wand
*** Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner
Recorded between 1980 & 1991 (Wand)
RCA RED SEAL Artistes & Repertoires 74321 846 072 [151.49]

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A generous compilation of Schubert’s orchestral music is offered on this double CD set. The current Grand Old Man of the German symphonic repertoire, Gunther Wand, directs the majority of the recordings and I‘m a little surprised that RCA didn’t include also his performance of the ‘Unfinished’, which originally appeared in harness with the recording of the Fourth symphony, which is featured on this set.

Instead we get a very imposing account of the ‘Unfinished’ by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Orchestra. RCA don’t give the recording date, which I suspect was sometime in the late 1950s. (They do give the dates of the other performances but the typeface is so small that quite literally I couldn’t read which dates applied to which recording.) Reiner’s performance here features a first movement which is dramatic and strongly projected while the second movement is broadly conceived and eloquent. As you would expect from this partnership the standard of the playing is very high and, all in all, this is a very recommendable reading.

The remainder of the programme is in the equally safe hands of Gunther Wand. Here he conducts two orchestras with which he has been closely associated for many years. The performance of the ‘Great’ C major is a deeply satisfying one, spacious and idiomatic. Wand has this music in his blood and this account evinces a lifetime’s experience. He always seems to know just how to let the music breathe. As you might expect from a master Brucknerian, the whole work unfolds with a seeming inevitability. In short, this is a well-played performance which just seems ‘right’.

The second disc features recordings by Wand and the Cologne orchestra. The recording of the ‘Tragic’ is cut at quite a high level and as this is ‘big band’ Schubert listeners may need to adjust the volume control. This is another performance that seems natural because it has been deeply considered and scrupulously prepared.

I love the Fifth symphony and here it receives a beautifully proportioned reading, full of air, grace and charm. Wand presides with a twinkle in his eye, it seems, delighting in Schubert’s fertile invention. This is a lovely, engaging work and here it receives a performance to match.

Three movements from the incidental music to ‘Rosamunde’ complete the collection. I’m afraid I’ve never found this music terribly interesting, a legacy perhaps of playing it many years ago in a youth orchestra. It is well played here and makes an attractive makeweight.

This is a very desirable compilation of four authoritative performances of Schubert symphonies. Unfortunately, as I’ve commented in reviewing other releases in this series, the documentation is a disgrace. Not only is the information skimpy, it is all but illegible. However, what really matters is the recordings themselves and they can be recommended confidently.

John Quinn


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