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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Complete Overtures Vol. 1
Der Teufel als Hydraulicus (1812) D4 [3:38]
Der Spiegelritter (1811) D11 [8:32]
Overture in D major D12 [8:16]
Overture in D major (1812) D26 [6:36]
Der Teufels Lustschloss (1814) D84 [9:04]
Der vierjährige Posten (1815) D190 [7:22]
Claudine von Villa Bella (1815) D239 [7:56]
Die Freunde von Salamanka (1815) D326 [5:54]
Overture in Bb major (1816) D470 [5:50]
Prague Sinfonia/Christian Benda
rec. Arco Diva-Domovina, Prague, Czech Republic. 10-11 November 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.570328 [63:08]
Experience Classicsonline

You may feel drawn to this disc out of a sense of duty. You know that you ought to know more of Schubert’s overtures than the so-called “Rosamunde” or the Overtures in the Italian Style. So you put this disc on – and are immediately transported with a sense of sheer delight. What is more, this continues throughout the disc as one engaging work follows another. At the end you pour yourself another cup of Earl Grey and start again. Well, at least that was my experience.
You may know all of these early works already and have scores or good recordings of them, in which case none of this will come as a surprise. For those who do not, let me explain that the nine overtures on this disc are all relatively early works written for a variety of purposes. Some are for operas or plays, some are concert works, and the last was probably written for a Cantata in honour of the Chief Inspector of Elementary Schools, a man also in charge of the fund for teachers’ widows. Despite that it is a very engaging piece. The notes by Keith Anderson helpfully explain the origins of each Overture, but I doubt whether you would be able to distinguish which is which without those notes. They are however unfailingly attractive, most with slow introductions followed by sonata-form movements. If you enjoy Schubert’s first three Symphonies, you will certainly enjoy these pieces which are very much in a similar vein and with similar virtues, especially in respect of the very characteristic scoring. Over and over again the listener will find themselves delighted by a turn of phrase, an unexpected harmony or deft orchestration.
Although clearly this is essentially down to the composer, much of the pleasure of the disc is also due to the bright but affectionate performances by the Prague Sinfonia, an expanded version of the Prague Chamber Orchestra. Christian Benda comes from a very distinguished family of Czech musicians and directs performances that are just right for these pieces, avoiding on the one hand blandness and on the other excessive point making. The recording quality is clear and full.
You will have gathered by now that I have had considerable pleasure from this disc. Completeness can be a mixed blessing, but on this occasion I am very glad that Naxos have decided to do this in respect of a category as unexpected as Schubert’s Overtures.
John Sheppard


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