Dennis Russell Davies / Sinfonieorchester Basel

Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 5

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With little on the cover to hint at what might be held in store, listeners might overlook the treats that Dennis Russell Davies and the Sinfonieorchester Basel offer in this exquisite live recording on the ensemble's own label. Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 3 in D major and the Symphony No. 5 in B flat major are beloved masterworks in the Classical mold, and they are often performed in what is deemed authentic period style, with an orchestra of fairly small proportions, original instruments, brisk tempos, and techniques that were current in Mozart's time. Davies and his musicians don't really play with a reduced ensemble and their instrumentation and techniques are decidedly modern, but the spirit and execution of these performances is surprisingly close to what might be called a historically informed performance. For many listeners, a middle course between conventional and historical approaches seems to be a workable compromise, and the musicality displayed in these lucid performances will satisfy many who enjoy the robust sound of a full orchestra but want the refinements of the best period scholarship. Davies clearly reads these pieces with awareness of Classical norms, but gives the music the benefit of warm strings and the vibrant timbres of modern woodwinds, brass, and timpani. The reproduction of the concert setting is quite clean, resonant, and virtually noise-free.

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