Herbert Blomstedt / Staatskapelle Dresden

Schubert: Complete Symphonies

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Berlin Classics' Basics Series survey of Franz Schubert's eight canonical symphonies is a streamlined offering, with the CDs packaged in cardboard sleeves in a trimline box without liner notes. To the extent that listeners can depend on the musicianship of conductor Herbert Blomstedt and the skills of the Staatskapelle Dresden for quality assurance, the set is certainly better than sufficient for the budget conscious beginner. Blomstedt's interpretations are mainstream, with no obvious concessions to historically informed performance practice, but the comparatively small size of the Dresden orchestra and the clean playing almost make such considerations irrelevant. Even though exposition repeats aren't taken in the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, "Unfinished," or the Symphony No. 9 in C major, "Great," and the ensemble plays modern instruments, the classical restraint in the playing, the smooth bowing with minimal vibrato, and the bright sonorities more than make up for any lack of authentic period touches or original instrumentation. Furthermore, the clarity of the ADD sound brings every note across, so this is a solid collection that only the fussiest listener could nitpick. While there are recordings available that contain more music, such as the unofficial completions of the Symphony No. 7 in E major and the sketches for other unnumbered symphonies (which were released on a separate Berlin Classics album by Heinz Rogner and Peter Gülke), the Blomstedt cycle is excellent for most listeners' purposes and is actually worthy of a place in many connoisseurs' collections.

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