The excellent narration by Jeremy
Siepmann and the production in general are extremely informative.
Siepmann is obviously a person with a wide and thorough knowledge
of the subject under review. The choice of actors portraying
characters in Schubert's life, as opposed to a central storyteller,
is most effective. One is constantly reminded of a typical BBC
radio play. Praise indeed, but the honours must inevitably rest
on the shoulders of Siepmann himself, whose insight and understanding
of the composer is beyond reproach. The historical information
concerning Schubert's life, his early experience as a schoolteacher
and subsequent trip to the Esterhazy household in Hungary (although
not to Haydn's) is well documented. It is staggering to learn
that in his twenties he produced more works in 14 years than
Bach or Handel did in 50!
The many musical illustrations,
whilst at times somewhat short, typify Schubert's development
from an early age to his untimely death at 31. With the exception
of a few examples, the main musical content is taken from the
excellent Naxos catalogue with fine performances and good recorded
sound. The booklet included is full of relevant information
not only regarding Schubert's life and music but also the events
that took place around that time in Europe. Indeed every facet
of Schubert's life is beautifully described in detail. It is
interesting to note that whilst the whole production is very
comprehensive and informative, things never become dull or boring.
This particular listener's attention was held from beginning
to end. For those people who love Schubert's music or for those
who are experiencing him for the first time, this boxed set
will not disappoint. We witness here the glorious melodies in
his many lieder, the incredible depth of feeling and emotion
in his piano sonatas together with his many chamber works and
not least his symphonies culminating in the pinnacle of his
orchestral writing, the Great C Major Symphony. Schubert
lived in the shadow of Beethoven and unlike his great mentor,
he seldom had his music performed professionally in public at
least not in his lifetime. It is gratifying to know that this
situation does not apply today. Franz Schubert has taken his
place amongst the greatest composers of all time and considering
his short life and his frequent bouts of depression, one can
only marvel at this remarkable man.
The booklet is divided into 8 sections,
including Historical background, Schubert in his time, a graded
listening plan (most important) and some recommended reading.
The full spoken text can be found on the CD-ROM part of the
discs. An issue not to be missed!