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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No.1 in D major, D 82 (1813) [27:21]
Symphony No.2 in B flat major, D 125 (1814-15) [33:46]
Funeral March from Adrast D 137 (1819-20) [4:23]
Die Zauberharfe, Overture ('Rosamunde' Overture) D 644 (1820) [9:51]
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
rec. Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden, June 2013
original format 24bit/96kHz; stereo/multi-channel; BIS hybrid SACD/CD
Reviewed in surround
BIS BIS1989 SACD [76:39]

Horst Scholz's long and interesting notes describe in some detail the background not only to these pieces but to the rediscovery in the 20th century of Schubert's early symphonies. The musical world would have been much the poorer had this not taken place for even the teenage composer of the First Symphony can delight us with his infectious rhythms and attractive tunes. By the grand old age of 17 and onto his Second Symphony his inventions are about as graceful as can be imagined. The addition of the lesser known March from Adrast, and the famous 'Rosamunde' Overture - the notes explain the two different names - bring the length of this SACD to the usual generous timings offered by BIS. Thomas Dausgaard has been recording a complete cycle of the symphonies and this disc, the first I have heard, completes the set on four SACDs. The Swedish Chamber Orchestra perform with precision and high artistry throughout this offering.

If excellent modern multi-channel sound and faultless recordings are your aim then you will be completely satisfied. If however you are no spring chicken, like me, and question the comment by the Daily Telegraph reviewer quoted in the previous release advert at the back of the booklet that this series is 'like having a layer of varnish removed from a much-loved painting' (also like me) then you may recollect one Wolfgang Sawallisch. Sawallisch recorded the complete Schubert symphonies with the remarkable Dresden Staatskapelle back in 1967. Further, the performances utilised the then new Bärenreiter edition, so were, and still are, thoroughly up to date textually in the case of these two symphonies - though not necessarily the later ones. Much more important the performances removed all the varnish nearly half a century back and are still as vital as ever. The Dresden/Sawallisch recording yields nothing to Dausgaard and his Swedish players except for the latter's divided strings. Indeed the timpani and lower strings sound better articulated in the 48 year-old version. Played in admittedly artificial surround (DTS Neo:X music, if you must know) from the Philips CDs issued in 1995, Sawallisch and the Dresdeners come remarkably close technically to this lovely new BIS SACD. So, if you own the old LPs or the less ancient Philips Duo CD sets, this present issue gains little except the gorgeous Rosamunde Overture. Nevertheless, buying both will make you listen to more Schubert and that is a great idea.

Dave Billinge