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Riccardo Muti
Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 8 "Unfinished" & 1

For decades Schubert's gentle nature led conductors to underplay his symphonies as if they were closer to Haydn than Beethoven. The 'Unfinished' later became the vehicle for much stronger accents and dramatic contrasts, as one can hear from Carlos Kleiber on DG and here from Muti. The Vienna Phil, if left alone, would probably have given us a sweeter rendition of the first movement, but Muti adds Sturm und Drang, and it's effective. The struggle between lyricism and drama is well judged. EMI's sound is excellent, too, giving us a lot of inner detail while keeping alive the orchestra's vibrancy.

Muti's second movement sounds a bit rushed and restless when it should evoke heavenly repose. Basically he's not letting go of the drama of the first movement, resulting in punchier accents than usual. The contrast works, but haven't we have a big dose of it already? In the First Sym. Muti goes for a big sound with Beethoven sonorities. You'd expect that this would be too much in early Schubert, but as with Harnoncourt's version, the heroic approach works. Muti ushers Schubert into the full light of Romanticism. I was impressed--his performance is better than Karajan's over-blown reading (also on EMI) and is fully worth five stars.

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  • Seller location: Lower Hutt City, Wellington, NZ

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