Colin Davis

Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 1-6, 8 & 9

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

Acclaimed for his great recordings of works by Mozart and Berlioz, it is a little surprising that Sir Colin Davis is not equally hailed for his superb renditions of Schubert's symphonies, a repertoire for which this conductor's blending of Classical elegance and Romantic passion is perfectly suited. Previously released as a box set in 1996, this RCA Complete Collection reveals Davis as a masterful interpreter of Schubert's unique uses of symphonic form; and his performances have real momentum and coherence, the two qualities that hold these symphonies together. Davis' sense of trajectory is plainly evident in the first six symphonies, which adhere to Classical models and depend on forward motion and clear structures to convey the unity of their movements. But propulsion is even more critical in the more expansive frameworks of the Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished," and the Symphony No. 9, "The Great." In these, Davis holds a tight rein on tempi and the rhythmic elements that propel Schubert's developments, and this control makes the Symphony No. 8 even more urgent and the Symphony No. 9 truly riveting, despite its extraordinary length. The Staatskapelle Dresden is exceptional throughout, playing with precise articulation, focused energy, and full orchestral sonority, and RCA's sound quality is very close to its best.

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