Schubert: Death And The Maiden

Album cover art for upc 747313205172
Label: NAXOS
Catalog: 8572051
Format: CD

Wholenote Discoveries - 2009
Naxos brings us two ‘new’ symphonic works by Schubert: a transcription of a major chamber work and another attempt to solve the enigma of the Unfinished Symphony. American musician Andy Stein's full orchestration of the Death and the Maiden string quartet is quite striking and works extremely well, supporting his view that the quartet is arguably Schubert's greatest large-scale composition, and successfully realizes his desire to create a late Classical/early Romantic symphony out of it. The instrumental scoring is idiomatic and highly effective, and there is excellent balance and contrast between the strings, brass and woodwind. Less successful - or, at least, less satisfying - is the completed version of the Unfinished Symphony, perhaps because our familiarity with the original makes it virtually impossible to listen objectively to any additions. Over the past 140 years there have been countless attempts to complete the work. This version has a reconstruction of the Scherzo - based on Schubert's own sketches - by the English Schubert scholar Brian Newbould, together with a Finale assembled by the Swiss conductor Mario Venzago which combines extracts from Schubert's Rosamunde incidental music with the same work's Entr'acte, which some historians believe may have been intended as the original Finale for the symphony. It's an impressive and credible attempt at doing the impossible perhaps, but fails to address the fundamental question with projects like this – “Why even try?” Apparently recorded live in concert, the BPO and Falletta deliver performances full of passion and conviction. Terry Robbins

Price: $19.98