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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 1 in D Major, D82 (1813) [31:41]
Symphony No. 2 in B Flat Major, D125 (1815) [29:02]
Symphony No. 3 in D Major, D200 (1815) [23:00]
Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D417 “Tragic” (1816) [30:25]
Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, D485 (1816) [29:10]
Symphony No. 6 in C Major, D859 (1818) [30:12]
Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D759 “Unfinished” (1822) [24:15]
Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D944 “Great” (1827) [53:47]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Herbert Blomstedt
rec. 1978-1981, Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94693 [4 CDs: 60:45 + 53:27 + 59:25 + 78:04]

This Blomstedt/Dresden collection of Schubert’s complete Symphonies makes its debut on Brilliant Classics, having previously been released as a boxed set on Berlin Classics (2010, 2003) and Edel Classics (2008) labels and reviewed in detail on this site. According to the liner-notes, these recordings originated in analogue between 1978 and 1981 and were quite well regarded at the time. I believe that these digital transfers have not changed since their original release as individual CDs in the 1990s. While the sound might not have quite the detail of more modern recordings, it is nevertheless clear and dynamic, with a touch of analog warmth.
With a number of available alternatives, including the more modern cycles from Marriner, Abbado, Harnoncourt, Dausgaard, and Minkowski, the question collectors may be asking is whether this four CD boxed set is worth obtaining. Perhaps the best word to describe these performances is consistent. Quality of interpretation and performance is uniformly strong throughout, and even though I tend to favour the more youthful, classical sound of Schubert’s early symphonies, the “Little C Major”, “Unfinished”, and “Great” all get inspired readings here as well. Blomstedt’s tempi are in general swift and comparable to those used by Abbado and Harnoncourt, with one exception to this being the second movement of the Fifth, which Blomstedt takes at a considerably more relaxed pace. Outer movements have plenty of verve and ebullience - just sample the final movements of the Third and Sixth Symphonies. The playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden is quite excellent, with fine work from the strings and commendable clarity of wind textures. This may be “big-band” Schubert, but never once did I sense a heaviness to the ensemble that impaired my enjoyment. That being said, those seeking a leaner, more historically informed sound might be better served by checking out Dausgaard or Minkowski. Without a doubt, though, the price of this Brilliant Classics set will be hard to beat, and given the consistency of these performances, this recording is certainly worth exploring.
Albert Lam