Symphony No.5 in B flat, D485
Symphony No.6 in C, D589
Recorded in Sinfonie an der Regnitz, Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg in 2003 – on 17 & 18 March (Symphony No.5) and 14 & 15 October
Reviewed by: Andrew Achenbach
Reviewed: September 2005
CD No: TUDOR 7143
Duration: 65 minutes
Now here’s a genuine tonic. Jonathan Nott proves himself a stylish and intelligent Schubertian, drawing playing of uncommon grace and precision from his admirable Bamberg band (which, on this evidence, can boast a particularly personable woodwind roster).
In the Fifth Nott conducts with lucid proportion and tasteful insight; the results are thoughtful and articulate without being didactic. I appreciate the structural and harmonic clarity (bass-lines are always clean-limbed and purposeful), scrupulous dynamic shadings and infectiously sprung rhythms, yet Nott never drives too hard (both the slow movement and finale unfold with an unhurried naturalness), and there’s also plenty of time for smiling affection (try the heart-warming trio).
The Sixth is similarly stimulating and involving, Nott investing the music with a sense of scale, dialogue and ambition that point the way forward more clearly than is customary to the mighty canvas that is Schubert’s other, rather better-known C major symphony. Again, the orchestral playing is ideally spry and communicative (marvellously ‘vocal’ winds – the principal bassoon’s contribution is a joy); one senses these fine artists are really listening to each other and the finished article is all the more enjoyable and absorbing as a result.
So, a splendid pair of performances, captured with undistracting fidelity and pleasing warmth by the recording engineers – and most musically balanced too (this is, in fact, a co-production between Tudor and Bavarian Radio). As usual, the SACD layer yields a touch greater definition and depth, but the sound is never less than first-rate in both formats. I for one look forward to catching up with the remaining instalments in Nott’s Schubert symphony cycle before too long.