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
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
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
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