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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 6 in C major, D. 589 (1817-18) [30:19]
Music from Rosamunde, D. 797 (1823) [31:46]
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
rec. February 2012, Öbrero Concert Hall, Sweden.
BIS BIS-SACD-1987 [62:46]

Having greatly enjoyed Thomas Dausgaard’s Schumann symphonic recordings (see review), I was more than delighted to find this Schubert disc amongst my allocation. This is still part of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra’s ‘Opening Doors’ collection, though the logo isn’t being paraded with quite as high a profile as previously and my copy had no extra cardboard slip for the standard jewel case. Schubert’s 8th and 9th Symphonies are already available in this series on BIS-1656. BIS already released some Schubert Symphonies with Neeme Järvi in the 1980s with nice performances from the Stockholm Sinfonietta, but Dausgaard’s recordings, while drier in acoustic, are more distinctive in terms of style.
My last encounter with Schubert’s symphonies via these pages was with Herbert Blomstedt’s fine Berlin Classics set with the Staatskapelle Dresden (see review). The orchestral sound is inevitably grander than with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, but timings with each movement are not so very different, and I still like Blomstedt’s lightness of touch with these works, even if the wobbly vibrato to the flute sound is bothersome. There are no such quibbles with the orchestral sections with this BIS recording. The music is played expressively but without any kind of over-emphasis, the actual recording not terribly spectacular but nicely detailed and realistic.
Performing Schubert symphonies with a chamber orchestra should hold few if any real surprises, unless you are only used to the likes of Herbert von Karajan, whose Berlin Philharmonic recordings on EMI Gemini are a rich and refined sonic feast but of a distinctively mid to late Beethovenian flavour. Schubert’s symphonies were never performed publicly in his lifetime, and the Symphony No. 6 was the only one he heard played in rehearsal with an amateur orchestra. This is a youthful work which makes tribute to the likes of Rossini, and the orchestra of the time would have been more comparable with those used by Mozart and Haydn than anything particularly Romantic. Chamber orchestra forces do not however result in Schubert-lite, and you only have to listen to the tremendous accents of the Scherzo to be made aware of the hard-hitting possibilities of such an ensemble. Fewer strings make for a more equal partnership between these and the wind sections, and the sense of inner dialogue is a strong aspect in this recording. As far as I am concerned there is nothing anaemic about this performance, and it ticks all the boxes for radiant joy and underlying drama.
Six years on from the Symphony No. 6 saw Schubert involved in Rosamunde, a play which promised much but ended in humiliating public failure, Schubert’s excellent incidental music unable to lift the audience’s indifference to the theatre experience, but strong enough to become popular in its own right. The sections presented here are Entr’actes 1, 3, and 2, and the Ballet Music No. 2 and No. 1 in that order. This is a more complete set than most ‘filler’ movements added to orchestral recordings, and with the famous tune of Entr’acte No. 3 played with warmth and affection, the two ballets given perfect energy and tempi and plenty of atmospheric dramas elsewhere I can find nothing to complain about. You won’t find the orchestral opulence of recordings such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon, and this is still one of your best bets if looking for the complete Rosamunde, choir and all. Listening to this BIS recording does however make one realise how idealised such performances can become, and it is Thomas Dausgaard who brings us closer to the earthy reality of an orchestra in something approaching a theatre setting.
Dominy Clements