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Dip Your Ears, No. 219 (Racy Schubert from Dausgaard and Heras-Casado)

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Franz Schubert, Symphonies 3 - 5
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard (conductor)

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Franz Schubert, Symphonies 3, 4
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Pablo Heras-Casado (conductor)
Harmonia Mundi

Early Schubert symphonies are just a soupçon of tedium away from being boring. Wildness, youthful jubilance, brilliance and a good timpani thwacking are all necessary ingredients and it’s not surprising that (early) Schubert is being well served by early music and chamber ensembles: they are tuned to vitality and happy to go for the jugular. The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (with Pablo Heras-Casado, Harmonia Mundi) tackles the Third and Fourth in their typical top-notch style, punching holes in the score, though perhaps even overdoing the drive in the Third: Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century (Philips) had shown in the 90s that excitement is not necessarily about conducting faster—although they then proceed to be faster and more exciting in the Fourth Symphony. (Frighteningly Brüggen has better sound than the slightly muffled Freiburg recording. Very much unlike Harmonia Mundi!)

Dausgaard and his Swedish Chamber Orchestra has the best sound of the lot and perhaps the most deft hand at these works, too: Wherever slow, he never drags, wherever fast, he never hurries. Punch and zest, yes, but not outright violence. The drum-roll opening of the Fourth shoots out like a salvo of (non-violent) machine gun fire, the darkness of the strings mourns passionately… The Fifth of Schubert, a personal favorite, can be a sunny masterpiece. Günter Wand in his last recording delievered something near genial perfection (NDRSO, RCA), but in his snappier way, Dausgaard rather matches him. That’s reason enough to declare the @SWCOrchestra’s disc one of the finds of the year!

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