Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, & 8/Nott SACD

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 9

It’s strange that conductor Jonathan Nott can’t bring the same virtues to mature Schubert that he does to the early works. As in his previous release, containing Symphonies Nos. 2 and 4, he leads Nos. 1 and 3 with freshness and a light touch. Trumpets and drums cut through the texture as they should, and the tarantella finale of Symphony No. 3 really does dance along delightfully. A slightly ominous sign of things to come, though, appears in the same work’s second-movement Allegretto, the outer sections of which hang fire. This is more a function of phrasing and accent than tempo, and it’s not all that serious in the context of a symphony without a genuine slow movement.

However, Nott’s treatment of the “Unfinished” Symphony (here listed as “No. 7”) couldn’t be more boring. In the first movement, muffled dynamics, slow tempos, and an all-out attempt to create atmosphere at the expense of forward momentum and drama render the music as flat-footed as it has ever sounded. The Andante suffers from much the same approach: it is ethereal to a fault, beautifully played but soporific in effect and lacking that lyrical directness and rhythmic backbone that constitutes the essence of an idiomatic Schubert style. As previously, the sonics are very fine, but Nott’s efforts to turn this Schubertian “dark night of the soul” into a sort of expressionist nightmare wind up achieving nothing more than tedium.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Unfinished: Jochum/Boston (DG)

FRANZ SCHUBERT - Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, & 8 "Unfinished"

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