Schubert 1, 3 & Unfinished – Nott Bamberg

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.1 in D, D82
Symphony No.3 in D, D200
Symphony No.8 [7] in B minor, D759 (Unfinished)

Bamberger Symphoniker
Jonathan Nott

Recorded in Sinfonie an der Regnitz, Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg in 2003 – on 24 & 25 March (Symphony No.1), 27 & 28 March (Symphony No.3) and 15 & 16 December

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: February 2005
CD No: TUDOR 7141
Duration: 79 minutes


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An imposing opening to Schubert’s Symphony No.1, the trumpet line properly ear-catching, is an impressive beginning to what will be a complete Schubert symphony cycle (complete in terms of what Schubert himself actually left us) from Jonathan Nott and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.

Nott is a persuasive musician, one who inspires things to happen in a wholly natural and musical way, and the Bamberg musicians (Nott’s been Principal Conductor since January 2000) respond in a way that suggests they are convinced and engaged by Nott’s approach. That approach is an attractive mix of tradition and individuality, of faithfulness and imagination, and of awareness and core values. These excellent Schubert performances are buoyant, freshly detailed and pliable.

Time and again, the listener responds joyfully to an ensemble and a conductor that have this music so spontaneously in their blood; a fine example is the Andante of the First Symphony, which flows convincingly with heartfelt expression and in which the woodwinds contribute a beguiling extemporisation. The Minuet-cum-scherzo is propelled along but never rushed; Nott secures dance-like rather than mechanical rhythms, and ‘authentic’ issues do not faze him, for the trio relaxes just enough to have a charming lilt. The finale is a delight of sparkling interplay.

The Third Symphony similarly swings along in a seemingly carefree way, yet one is aware of the thought and preparation that lie behind the clarity of expression and the way that phrases are modulated both for themselves and as part of a whole. How satisfying too are the contributions from winds, brass and timpani that both integrate with and decorate over the lithe and characterful strings.

Nott’s upbeat way with these ‘early’ Schubert symphonies doesn’t prepare the listener for his dark and spacious account of the Unfinished, an equally ‘early’ work albeit one from the other side of the tracks. On the evidence of Nott’s interpretation, he is someone who likes to exploit a composer’s range rather than tar an oeuvre with the same interpretative brush. This Unfinished is clearly expressing things deep and personal; it’s a very beautiful performance but such beauty is not self-regarding and is no barrier to powerful, emotional truth. The CD closes with a 20-second fragment that is all Schubert wrote of a movement intended for this symphony – a nice touch with which to conclude a first-class release.

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