Charles Mackerras / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8; Rosamunde

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This album by Charles Mackerras and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment deserves a hearing simply on the merits of the playing, for one could not ask for finer musicianship, and the polished sound of the recording is a great aid to appreciating the masterful performances. But the main attraction of this disc is the completed version of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, "Unfinished," which has been given a fleshed-out third movement and a finale adapted from music for Rosamunde, thanks to the efforts of musicologist Brian Newbould. Schubert's sketch for the Scherzo amounted to only a few measures, and Newbould had to round out the fragment with a Trio, which necessarily had to be freshly composed. The Entr'acte Music No. 1 from Rosamunde has long been a likely candidate for being the original finale for the symphony, since it is in the same tonic key of B minor and has identical instrumentation to the first movement. So the prospect of hearing this completion may draw listeners to this album out of curiosity, and some will no doubt be satisfied by it. However, once the novelty of hearing this finished version of the"Unfinished" wears off, the exceptional interpretations by Mackerras and the sparkling sounds of the orchestra will make one appreciate other aspects of the CD even more. The radiant performance of the Symphony No. 5 in B flat major surely deserves attentive listening, and the tuneful incidental music from Rosamunde offers delights in addition to the Entr'acte, so by all means give the whole album its due.

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