Friday 28 March 2014

Performances of Schubert from Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra on a new release from BIS

To my mind there is always a place for a fine new recording of Schubert Symphonies despite the rather crowded catalogue, particularly when the performances are as fine as those from Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra . This new release from BIS Records generously gives us Symphonies 3, 4 and 5 on a disc lasting nearly 81 minutes.

BIS - 1786 SACD

Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra are not lacking in weight in the opening of the Adagio maestoso – Allegro con brio of Symphony No. 3 in D major, D.200, yet there is soon evidence of a lighter, transparent sound with limited vibrato. When the allegro arrives, Dausgaard and the orchestra are so fleet footed as the music rushes ahead, yet with a terrific bass weight. These players give this their all, with terrific ensemble and some fine individual orchestral sections, particularly the brass and woodwind. The Allegretto brings a fine contrast, nicely paced, crisp and detailed showing the finest of Schubert’s lighter side. There is a beautifully shaped middle section. There is a really rumbustious Menuetto. Vivace with some lovely woodwind details and a nicely flowing, dancing trio section; finely shaped. The Presto vivace hurtles away, full of lithe energy showing what a great team Dausgaard and his Swedish players are, giving such an energetic, joyful performance.

The Swedish Chamber Orchestra surely must be one of the finest chamber orchestras around. I don’t think I’ve heard the third played with so much litheness, drama and sheer bravura for a long time.

Symphony No. 4 in C minor, ‘Tragic’. D.417 opens with a weighty Adagio molto with something less dynamic about it, a dark side with some fine orchestral rubato from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Again the restrained use of vibrato brings a period feel with their fine rubato tending to lend a menace to the music. When the Allegro vivace arrives, it is full of nervous energy. The orchestral transparency is terrific though there is no shortage of weight in the basses, pointed up by the timpani. As the movement develops, Schubert can’t seem to avoid gaining in optimism, the music becoming less tense. The Andante flows beautifully with a lovely rhythmic second subject, so sensitively played, with beautifully turned phrases and subtle orchestral shading.

There is a lovely rhythmic bounce in the little Menuetto. Allegro vivace, brilliantly pointed up by the timpani and with a lovely little trio section, beautifully done. How Dausgaard and his orchestra move from Menuetto to the trio section and back again is superbly done. The Allegro brings a beautifully smooth, flowing before the tempo increases and the music lightly dances quickly along with some terrific phrasing. Dausgaard and his orchestra pull the listener along at every stage in playing of such energy, flair and finesse.

The Allegro of Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D.485 moves swiftly along with Dausgaard bringing out all the little Schubertian qualities, avoiding any idea that somehow this is Mozartian piece. This is very much pure Schubert. The SCO do wonders with the fast flowing tempo. There are beautiful woodwind phrases and quieter moments that slowly flow, but primarily Dausgaard keeps the tempo up to great effect. In the lovely Andante con moto, where the music is never allowed to drag, there are more beautifully turned phrases as well as some nicely crisp, dynamic moments.

The Menuetto. Allegro molto is really superbly done, so rhythmically alive and fast flowing with a pacing of the trio section that works so well. A fast flowing Allegro vivace is full of superb dynamics with the SCO providing such a superb weight for such a small band. The lighter second subject is delightfully done, soft, flowing and mellow with this orchestra giving such lovely sounds as well as some fine dynamic outpourings.

These are performances that provide so many facets of Schubert’s genius. The recording from BIS does much to enhance these performances. There are informative booklet notes.

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