Dennis Russell Davies / Sinfonieorchester Basel

Franz Schubert: Grosse C-Dur-Sinfonie

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In a time when many Classical CDs are expected to represent the latest in period scholarship and historically informed performance practices, it's nice every once in a while to encounter a recording of a masterpiece without any novelty, just great playing. Dennis Russell Davies and the Basel Symphony Orchestra deliver Franz Schubert's "Great" C major Symphony with the simple virtues of clear interpretation and alert, energetic playing, and they prove that not much more is needed to make this piece a success. The ensemble is a full-sized modern symphony orchestra with a conventional seating arrangement, and the instrumentation and the techniques they use are also modern. Furthermore, their tempos are brisk but not inordinately fast, repeats are taken, and the 62:11 timing of the symphony shows that the pacing hasn't been streamlined. So nothing about this performance smacks of period style, yet it is a perfectly refreshing and satisfying live performance that doesn't need any gimmicks to get attention or communicate. Even the sound quality is excellent but ordinary, unfussy stereo, which is quite clean and warm for a live recording. Lacking any stylistic innovations or studio gimmicks, Davies nonetheless demonstrates that keeping the music simple and direct is more effective than following the lastest trends in authentic performance practice, especially in this resilient work.

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