Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4/Nott SACD

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

These are excellent performances, pellucidly recorded in both stereo and multichannel formats. Jonathan Nott takes enough from the period-performance school to characterize the outer movements of both symphonies with lively tempos, impressive textural transparency, and very clean rhythms (timpani using hard sticks). The two minuets, which really are scherzos at this tempo, also move along smartly, and Nott finds exactly the right pacing for the two andantes–the one from the Fourth Symphony is particularly lovely in this performance. In the outer movements of the Second Symphony, with their dizzy writing for the violins, Nott has also the mastered the tricky art of never letting the endlessly repeated accompanimental figures sound mechanical. The music has freshness and the resilience of youth, just as it should.

If I have one small quibble, it’s that, as with so many modern orchestras when performing classical-period works, there’s a certain timidity in the approach to dynamics. Fortissimos and accents could be hit and sustained with a bit more force. Given the abundant energy on display throughout, this is a relatively minor issue, but in places such as the finale of the Second Symphony, before the first fermata, or at measure 178 (where Schubert writes “fortissimo” with accents), it would have been even more exciting to hear the brass and winds really bite into the music. That reservation aside, I have nothing but praise for these intelligently shaped interpretations, and of course, early Schubert remains one of music’s most delightful and best-kept secrets.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Blomstedt/Staatskapelle Dresden (Berlin Classics)

FRANZ SCHUBERT - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4 "Tragic"

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