Sir Colin Davis has a long association with the Staatskapelle
Dresden. He first appeared with them in 1981 and the association
prospered to the extent that in 1991 he was named the orchestra’s
first-ever Honorary Conductor. This disc is devoted to two live
performances, given at the same concert in 1992 just a few days
before Sir Colin led the orchestra on a twelve-concert tour
of Japan, the repertoire for which included both these symphonies.
It seems to me that these performances bespeak an excellent
rapport between conductor and players.
The Schubert might be termed an “old-fashioned” performance.
It’s spacious and romantic in conception and, in my view, none
the worse for that, especially when it’s played as well as this.
The first movement is especially impressive. Davis and his players
make the most of the dynamic contrasts written into the score
and, indeed, use these contrasts to enhance – though not exaggerate
- the symphonic drama. So the movement begins at the edges of
audibility and the familiar first subject steals in: all this
feels just right. A bit further on, there’s another example
of felicitous dynamics when a long crescendo (between 7:38 and
8:27) is superbly achieved. The sound starts almost from nothing
and gradually swells, its growth organic and natural. Davis
leads a deeply serious interpretation of this movement, generating
a good deal of tension. He’s helped to realise his conception
by some glorious, unforced playing; the whole performance is
In some ways, after this the Andante feels a little anti-climactic.
However, the performance is delicate and affectionate. The playing
is consistently refined but in the louder passages there’s the
requisite degree of weight and strength. One can only admire
the lovely wind playing – the principal clarinet is especially
pleasing - while the string tone is rich and deep. It’s a glowing
The Brahms Third is no less successful. Indeed this is one of
those performances where everything just seems right.
The first movement is launched with vigour and throughout this
movement – and throughout the symphony, in fact – the strength
and tonal depth of the Dresdeners is very satisfying; the sonority
of the basses is particularly welcome. The exposition repeat
is taken of course, and later the development section is delivered
with great energy.
Davis achieves an easy, warm lyricism in II – again the playing
is burnished – and I felt that the phrasing was beautifully
poised, The reading of III is unforced and natural, enhanced
by some singing string contributions. The horn solo at 4:00
has that distinctive East European tone and as I listened I
reflected that Brahms may well have been used to hearing such
a sound from the horn players of his day.
Davis’s way with the finale strikes me as ideal. He invests
the very opening with a fine feeling of suppressed energy but
from 0:50 he obtains real vigour from the orchestra. The main
allegro material is played with vitality and dynamism. And then,
from around 6:23, the extended valedictory coda is beautifully
handled, bringing a most satisfying interpretation to a lovely
close, the dying embers of Brahms’s music glowing gently but
The recording emanates from a broadcast by the radio station
MDR Kultur. Their engineers have done a fine job in reporting
the orchestra. The booklet is well illustrated though the extensive
booklet note, at least in its English translation, is somewhat
on the fulsome side.
This is an exceptionally satisfying disc, reminding us once
again – as if we needed it – what a distinguished conductor
Sir Colin Davis is and how fine an instrument is the Staatskapelle