Abbado Rediscovered: Schubert - Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8

Claudio Abbado / Wiener Philharmoniker

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Abbado Rediscovered: Schubert - Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8 Review

by James Manheim

The period of conductor Claudio Abbado's work with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is not as well known as the rest of his discography, probably because he was never the orchestra's music director (although he did serve in that capacity with both the Vienna State Opera and the city of Vienna). He brought an Italianate flair from La Scala to Vienna, however, and some of his work from this period is choice. It's not clear whether the Abbado Rediscovered title of this album indicates a singular event or an ongoing series, but the latter is to be earnestly wished based on this wonderful pair of Schubert symphonies. The Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("Unfinished"), D. 759, has an especially operatic flair, with the big melody in the first movement beautifully set off with a slight broadening and the slow movement a magical tableau. With the Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485, Abbado goes counter to type, not emphasizing the score's Mozartian qualities but instead taking a muscular early Beethoven approach. The whole thing is a delight from start to finish, amplified by fabulously clean recording from Austrian radio, with hardly a peep from the audience until they applaud at the end. The booklet includes a replica of the listing of works in the original program. In between the two Schubert symphonies was a performance of Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2, and the only possible wish one could have for a better product would be to have had that included as well. Even without it, this is essential Schubert.

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