Jonathan Nott’s Bamberg
Schubert project comes to a conclusion
after a gap of almost three years since
the other symphonies were recorded.
Not that you could tell since his conception
remains consistent, and this new disc
has the excellent playing and recorded
sound accorded to its predecessors (see
reviews linked below).
This is the first recording
of the Great C major symphony
to be based on the latest critical edition
– the Neue Schubert-Gesamtausgabe.
It is here designated No. 8 (although
more usually known as No. 9) and in
the booklet Alfred Beaujean suggests
that it was written in 1825 rather than
the last year of Schubert’s life, as
has generally been thought.
Nott’s approach to
the early works was weightier than usual
and there were some notably slow tempi
– most strikingly in the first movement
of the Unfinished. One might
therefore have expected him to be in
his element in this work, and so it
proves. Almost sixty-two minutes on
the clock sounds - and is - a lot for
this work but his tempi are barely slower
than the norm; it is the repeats that
are probably most responsible for extending
the work to almost Brucknerian proportions.
Nott and the Bambergers
avoid any feeling of routine and capture
well the various moods of the work.
The opening slow introduction is quite
magical and the transition to Allegro
perfectly poised. In the slow movement
of Schubert’s "heavenly lengths"
there is a depth of feeling, even pathos
at times, which I had not recognised
in this music before. The scherzo dances
along in stately fashion with some lovely
woodwind playing; all is wonderfully
balanced between the sections of the
orchestra. In my book the finale primarily
needs to be joyous in feeling - perhaps
this why I shall persist in thinking
of it as No. 9 - and here the sun really
does come out.
Overall, this is a
superb version of the Great –
one that captures the spirit of Schubert
and yet manages to be individual. The
disc crowns an interesting cycle, worthy
to stand alongside some illustrious
competition. If you are looking for
these works on SACD then choice should
be easy. Otherwise Nott’s cycle looks
expensive and hopefully will be issued
in a mid-price box in the not too distant
future. Meanwhile, this disc would make
a fine sampler.
Patrick C Waller
Links to reviews of other discs in the
Tudor Schubert Symphony series:
Nos. 1, 3 & 8
Nos. 2, 4, 5 & 6