Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major; Symphony No. 6 in C Major – Tonhalle Orch. Zurich/ David Zinman – RCA

David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra extend their Schubert symphony survey with two charming renditions of the lyrical works of the 1816-1817 period.

Published on January 19, 2013

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major; Symphony No. 6 in C Major – Tonhalle Orch. Zurich/ David Zinman – RCA

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485; Symphony No. 6 in C Major, D. 589 – Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/ David Zinman – RCA 88725 463336-2, 60:15 [Distr. by Sony Classical] ****:

David Zinman, whose approach to Beethoven adopted the composer’s original metronome markings and realized a streamlined, unsentimental style, here, in Schubert’s 1816 B-flat Symphony, likewise assumes a brisk airily robust mien that likens Schubert to his idol Mozart. Lacking clarinets, trumpets, and drums, the music proceeds in elegantly long lines with clear bucolic textures. The Andante con moto provides the heart of the symphony, and Zinman paces this lovely romance with a resonant sense of harmonic and polyphonic nuance. In the course of its development, the music adopts a more martial gait, but its essential lyric poise remains unblemished. The G Minor Menuetto, despite its buoyancy and athleticism, balances rusticity and salon elegance, the oboes and violas in particularly sober harmony and captured (rec. 7-9 September 2012) by recording engineer Simon Eadon in burnished sound. The combination of pungent detail and just proportion – qualities Zinman inherited from his master teacher Pierre Monteux – invests the last movement, a virtuosic reading of the Allegro vivace, whose secondary theme sings in a Whitmanesque way of the open road with an open heart. Radiant and melodically opulent at once— courtesy of the Tonhalle strings, solo flute and its companion natural horns—the symphony has found a sympathetic interpreter who believes in its original innocence.

The 1817 Symphony in C Major enjoys the same finesse and technical aplomb, except the motivating spirit belongs to Rossini—especially in the last movement—rather than Mozart. The Tonhalle woodwinds and strings, alert and transparently present, offer themes in the first movement that ring of Rosamunde or German singspiel, but the affect remains entirely light and dance-like.  The F Major Andante proceeds with robust authority, a kind of serenade that walks an elegant tightrope between Italian and Austrian elements. The Trio of the Scherzo, less ambiguous nationally, gives us an E Major ¾ laendler of rustic character while the outer sections dance with athletic verve. Some commentators note the resemblance of this Scherzo with the potent model of Beethoven’s First Symphony in the same key. Zinman urges the Allegro moderato finale exactly like a Rossini patter section from one of his overtures, cross-fertilized by Mozart’s own brio. Some military fanfares break out, then the music romps in a potpourri of tunes, rather rhapsodically harmonized by a sure hand from composer and interpreter. The exceptionally aerial quality of the Tonhalle woodwinds recommends this charming disc almost entirely on its own. A rondo in its basic structure, the virile imagination of the scoring and juxtaposition of themes makes any architectural analysis merely a pedant screen that prevents our savoring the easy geniality of the charmed performance.

—Gary Lemco




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