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Schubert: Symphonies 4 & 6 / Norrington

Release Date: 02/21/2000 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 54210   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Classical Players
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

High drama and propulsive energy with timps going off like rockets when the music swings into the major

Those looking for mellow, elegant and expansive Schubert will already have passed on to the next review. Fully paid up members of, and recent initiates to The Norrington Way need not hesitate. Indeed, this latest offering should expand their ranks quite considerably—partly because these two symphonies are less elevated than some of the sacred monuments of the repertoire that Norrington has recently chosen to illuminate for us, and partly because, in this case the goal posts don't appear to have been shifted quite so far.

Neither are the stakes as high; in fact a thoroughly recommendable modern Tragic is
Read more hard to find. In both this and the Sixth there is less of what RO has memorably described as the ''prescriptively vital'' manner which marred, for me, moments of the Schubert Fifth (12/90). You would expect the second movement of the Sixth to move faster than Beecham's (mid-price EMI, more of a Largo than an Andante), but its opening, though fast, is delicately drawn, almost unsure of itself. Then the brisk whistle while you walk takes over and the music bubbles with confidence until the final bars where Norrington allows himself quite a marked slowing for a beautifully tranquil recollection of the opening.

Even the most die-hard traditionalist will have a job suppressing a smile in the following Scherzo: the high contrast jokes leap out at you with rapier sharp accenting, but always with good humour, a Till-like twinkle in the eye. And at the risk of stating the obvious, the reduced density of period instruments make this more easily achievable without the threat of over-emphasis. Wit in both the playing and the shaping is already evident in the opening movement, as it is in Beecham's (though quite different they are both a class apart from the average offering), with those period pipers gambolling like spring lambs in the first subject (sorry, but it is that time of year). Lucid Abbey Road sound ensures proper prominence for the symphony's centre stage woodwind, which gives Norrington an unfair advantage over Goodman (Nimbus) whose woodwind, to adapt Debussy's phrase, sometimes register only as distress signals from the back of All Saints', Tooting. Norrington, too, has a firmer body of strings than Goodman; there are times in the latter's version of the Fourth Symphony where you wouldn't know if they were playing the right notes or not. It is only fair though to point out that the more compromising Goodman occasionally achieves shapelier phrasing at more moderate speeds.

Except, that is, for the Fourth's first movement. At a sturdier Allegro vivace than either Goodman or Jarvi (BIS) Norrington manages far keener articulation and clearer detail than both. In fact, compared with two other modern instrument versions to come my way recently, from Groves and Gilmour (both Pickwick), the LCP's playing here is definitely, as they say, a class act. A return to form in the genuine Andante (second movement) brings rather plain speaking from strings and oboe in the opening paragraph. But the new proportions are soon accepted and the woodwind colours in those dying falls (from bar 80, 2'09'') that lead the agitated second theme back to the first are utterly enchanting.

The biggest surprise comes in the Fourth's finale. No exposition repeat! This is, though, vintage Norrington; high drama and propulsive energy with timps going off like rockets when the music swings into the major. Only period brass and timpani can respond with this degree of enthusiasm to a thumbs up in the final pages without obliterating the woodwind and strings. An immediate encore was my reaction.'

John Steane, The Gramophone
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 4 in C minor, D 417 "Tragic" by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Classical Players
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1816; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 6 in C major, D 589 "Little C Major" by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Classical Players
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1818; Vienna, Austria 

Featured Sound Samples

Symphony no 4 "Tragic": I. Adagio molto - Allegro vivace
Symphony no 6 "Little C Major": I. Adagio - Allegro - Piů moto

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