Symphony No.3 in D major, D.200 (1814) [21:54]
Symphony No.5 in B flat major, D.485 (1816) [28:24]
Sinfonieorchester Basel/Dennis Russell Davies
rec. live, 21 Sept 2011 (D.200), 11-12 Jan 2012 (D.485), Stadt-Casino
Basel Musiksaal, Switzerland
SINFONIEORCHESTER BASEL SOB01 [50:28]
The Sinfonieorchester Basel has released many CDs and now has
an own label of the same name managed by Solo Musica. Their
first release is of two symphonies from the teenage Schubert.
These are conducted by Dennis Russell Davies who, as of the
2009/10 season, became the orchestra’s third chief conductor.
Schubert’s early symphonies are decidedly classical in
form and style. Not surprisingly they are greatly influenced
by those great classical masters Haydn and Mozart. These early
symphonic scores, including the Symphony No. 3, D.200
and Symphony No. 5, D.485,barely suggest the greatness
that was to come later. The Unfinished (1822) and the
Ninth (1828) contain his unmistakable musical fingerprints:
his cheerful lyricism, engaging personal charm and special Viennese
He was just eighteen when in 1814 he composed his Symphony
No.3 in D major, D.200. It seems that he completed the bulk
of this elegant score in a mere eight days. In what was a most
productive time, it wasn’t long after this work that he
composed one of his finest lied, Erlkönig. Schubert
had been dead some fifty-three years before his D major symphony
was given its public première in London in 1881.
After the unhurried and dramatic introduction Davies in his
brisk and highly spirited Allegro con brio blows away
any cobwebs that may have settled. In addition to the sense
of grandeur and a real vivacity I was struck by the amount of
fine detail that Davies reveals. There’s a most impressive
stately tread in the Allegretto. Here I was struck by
the attractive sheen from the Basel strings and I loved the
woodwind contributions. Impressively weighted pacing in the
Menuetto unites a Ländler-like trio with
a lively, foot-stomping Scherzo in the manner of a rustic
dance. Feeling much quicker than I am used to, the Presto
vivace, Finale propels forward at near-breakneck
speed. Even so this version lacks the intensity of some of the
finest rival accounts.
Following closely on the heels of his Symphony No. 4
‘Tragic’ Schubert’s Symphony No.5,also
from 1816, is generally acknowledged as one of Schubert’s
three most popular symphonies. He scored the work for his smallest
orchestra dispensing with clarinets, second flute, trumpets
and timpani. The first public performance was in 1841 in Vienna
twelve years after Schubert’s death. In the hands of the
adept Davies the exquisite charms of the flowing opening Allegro
with its glorious melody is remarkably uplifting. One senses
that the Basel players are extremely comfortable in Schubert’s
lush and deep sentimental writing in the Andante con moto.
It evoked a feeling of Mozartean refinement. There are nicely
pointed rhythms with a sharp edge in the Menuetto and
these radiate a bright optimism. Certainly not afraid of fast
speeds, Davies takes the Allegro vivace, Finale
at an extremely swift pace which brings this heart-warming score
to a fresh and vivacious conclusion.
For many years I have admired the beautifully played performance
of the Fifth Symphony from Karl Böhm and the Vienna
Philharmonic. He recorded it for Deutsche Grammophon in 1979
at the Großer Saal des Wiener Musikvereins on ‘The
Originals’ 447 433-2 (c/w Beethoven Symphony No.6
Of the complete Schubert symphonies, a recent acquisition but
undoubtedly the winning set for me, is conducted by Böhm
and the Berlin Philharmonic on a four disc ‘collectors
edition’ box. These were recorded in 1963/71 in the exceptional
acoustic of the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin Dahlem. In Schubert
Böhm has few peers conducting typically warm and polished
performances on Deutsche Grammophon 471 307-2. I often play
the handsome 4 disc box set of the complete Schubert symphonies
from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam under Nikolaus
Harnoncourt. These sympathetic and unfailingly musical performances
were recorded in live performances at the Concertgebouw Hall,
Amsterdam in 1992 on Warner Classics 2564 62323-2. Sheer class.
The Basel engineers provide natural and vividly clear sound.
I could not detect any unwanted audience noise on either of
the symphonies and there was no applause at the conclusions.
These are vigorous and polished accounts from an orchestra and
conductor that prove themselves excellent advocates for these
two appealing Schubert scores.