Schubert: The "Great" C major Symphony

Colin Davis

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Schubert: The "Great" C major Symphony Review

by Blair Sanderson

Going by the credits, this 2006 release of a live 1996 recording of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major, "Great," by Sir Colin Davis and the Staatskapelle Dresden should be a fine addition to any collection since both the conductor and the orchestra are exceptional and the composer beyond reproach. But this disc might be a little disappointing if it is compared to another CD of the same piece, pulled from the archives by the same label: Günter Wand's live 1993 recording with the Munich Philharmonic, which stands head and shoulders above Davis' rendition in its clarity of details, spaciousness of sound, richness of timbres, and brilliance of reproduction. On hearing this version in a side-by-side comparison, Davis and the orchestra seem to be playing behind an aural scrim since their colors are muted, their textures muddied, and their dynamics subdued; even Schubert's glorious fortissimo tutti are somewhat stifled here. Even though this recording was intended for radio broadcast, it seems unduly compressed in this commercial release; and the dry, almost airless sound quality here is hard to tolerate for long, especially after experiencing the freshness of Wand's performance. While Davis' version is far from flat or lackluster, it is less nuanced in orchestral colors and articulation and seems almost monochromatic when compared to the other disc. So if you are presented with a choice between recordings, opt for Wand's, and take Davis' only if you are specifically rounding out a collection of his recordings.

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