Schubert: Symphonies/Blomstedt

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 8

On balance, this is probably the finest, most consistent Schubert cycle available. It has flown “under the radar” for many years now, owing to the vagaries of distribution and availability of (then) East German recordings, but hopefully it will remain around long enough for music lovers to take notice. Herbert Blomstedt is one of those self-effacing conductors who never made much of splash, even during his tenure in San Francisco, where he did some outstanding work (his Sibelius cycle for Decca particularly). His approach here–lively but elastic tempos, affectionate phrasing in the slow movements, incisive rhythms, and translucent textures–works magnificently well, but the star of the show, equally, is the Staatskapelle Dresden.

This orchestra, Germany’s finest even when Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic was grabbing all of the (Western) headlines, has the music in its bones. Every section plays with distinction, especially the woodwinds, who lend so much character to the early symphonies and make something truly special out of “The Great” and “Unfinished”. Or listen to the crisp elegance of the strings in the Fifth, or notice the always present but never vulgar trumpets and drums (even in the First and Second). These truly are performances where the interpretation simply vanishes into the natural, effortless flow of the music, and if that isn’t a “classical” ideal then nothing is. The sonics, a touch shallow by the best modern standards but otherwise perfectly fine, have held up well. Essential.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This One

FRANZ SCHUBERT - Complete Symphonies

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