Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 6 in C major (1818) [33:04]
Symphony No. 8 in B minor ‘Unfinished’ (1822) [26:00]
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sir Roger Norrington
rec. 9-11 November 2011, SWR Studio, Stuttgart
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD93.298 [59:12]
Schubert’s Sixth is not an easy piece to bring
off. The challenge surrounds the requirement to articulate the tricky
rhythmic contour of the first movement's principal material at a suitable
tempo. It must be at once lively and sensitively phrased.
Roger Norrington’s new recording of the piece is highly satisfactory,
while another successful performance on CD comes from Günter Wand
(Testament SBT1364) who manages to achieve this demanding balancing
of opposing forces, with beguiling results. Not that Norrington fails
to achieve similar standards, however, and he is also excellent in the
remaining movements, with some very pleasing string playing in particular.
The temptation with the celebrated Unfinished Symphony is to
think that had he lived longer, Schubert would have completed it. The
worthy attempts of various people to provide the two remaining movements
have encouraged this erroneous view. The truth of the matter is that
Schubert wrote this piece in 1822, more than five years before his tragically
early death. Since the music was not played and was not known during
his lifetime, no-one can be sure whether or not he intended to turn
it into a conventional four-movement piece. No matter, since what we
have is so wonderfully effective on its own terms, and Schubert evidently
thought so too. Here the orchestra is larger, the textures richer, the
manner more romantic, dramatic and forceful.
In this popular symphony the CD market-place is a good deal more competitive.
Norrington brings a satisfying sense of completeness to his interpretation,
and the playing of the Stuttgart orchestra is precise and distinguished
in every department. If there is a hint of severity in the first movement
that is no bad thing. It serves to enhance the symphonic tensions and
Schubert’s powerful orchestration, replete with trombones. The
chosen tempo for the second movement Andante is on the fast side,
as is this conductor’s preference in classical repertoire, and
therefore a degree of lyricism is passed by. If a more romantic approach
is sought then a safe recommendation would be Claudio Abbado’s
recording (DG 4236552) with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.