Albert Simon

Schubert: Symphony No. 7 "The Great"

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The first problem listeners will encounter when attempting to listen to this album will be in actually removing it from the case. Made entirely from paper, it is virtually impossible to remove the disc from the tight-fitting sleeve without smearing fingerprints all over it, and when it was finally out, it had scratches and paper debris all over it. Furthermore, the packaging lists the work as Symphony No. 7 despite the fact it is Symphony No. 9 in the updated numbering system used for quite some time now.

This symphony can be a wonderfully triumphant and exciting piece of music. However, due to its sometimes repetitive nature and sheer length, anything but a first-rate performance can quickly get monotonous and long-winded. Sadly, the Ferenc Liszt Academy Orchestra -- a student ensemble -- is simply not up to the task. The recording is replete with ensemble problems; downbeats are commonly not together, tempi vary between sections, and articulation is not uniform even within single sections. The wind section drags horribly, making already slow tempi seem even more ponderous. Intonation vacillates from mediocre to poor and the section playing in general is just quite sloppy. Listeners would be wise to favor a professional recording of this work; Simon Rattle's performances with the Berlin Philharmonic are exceptional.

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