Edward Gardner / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Schubert: Symphonies, Vol. 1 - Nos. 3, 5, and 8

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These Schubert works do not lack availability, but your time and money will be amply rewarded by these, which launch a new Schubert cycle by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its former conductor Edward Gardner. What strikes one first is the clean, limpid playing of the CBSO, the kind that comes from a long acquaintance between conductor and orchestra, and leads an ensemble to punch above its weight. Gardner's interpretations are well-considered and detailed. Consider the transition between the opening "Adagio maestoso" and the "Allegro con brio" in the first movement of the Symphony No. 3 in D major, D. 200, where the main body of the movement unexpectedly grows organically out of the introduction; in Gardner's hands, this moment, which must have both excited and baffled the symphony's original listeners, has the proper excitement. His treatment of the well-worn opening movement of the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 ("Unfinished"), is likewise fresh: the famed melodic second theme is not luxuriated in like a warm bath but rather given a proper introductory feel that leads to its elaboration in the music that follows. The Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485, sparkles in its Mozartian elegance. Superb Schubert throughout, and whets the appetite for more in Gardner's series.

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