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Friday, December 21, 2018

Franz Schubert, Symphonies 1 & 6, B'Rock Orchestra, Rene Jacobs

Schubert was one of those composers, needless to say, that did so much in such a relatively short life that we are still trying to catch up with all of it. There is always more to focus into again and again, and then things we might be neglecting. Like how many know his operatic music? This Friday morning I am happy to report in on the first volume of a new edition of the complete (9) symphonies of Schubert, as played with care and zeal by the B'Rock Orchestra under Rene Jacobs (Pentatone 5186 707). To this end we get to hear their go at his Symphonies 1 & 6.

And truly, that is a good place to start, with the classically crisp simplicity of the first and the breakthrough post-Beethovenian awesomeness of the sixth. Very good place based on what we have here, versions that are neither too "Classical" (Peter Maag?) nor too "Romantic" (think of some of the German titan conductors?). Instead we have a somewhat jolly version of the first and its simple elegance, and a very focused and virtuosic version of the 6th, beautifully energetic and three dimensional, a very best version, up there among the very best in my mind.

Based on a run-through of the liners to this inaugural volume I can report back that: 1) B'Rock Orchestra is dedicated to a "pure" musical experience regardless of what music they might cover, which goes from the Baroque onwards. Whatever the work, they espouse the original instrument ethos, and you hear that in this case. 2) Rene Jacobs goes about his Schubert as a labor of love. He describes his exposure to the Master as a youth via the lieder. And now of course the symphonies are a true love as well with him. Should we have it any other way? He notes the virtues of following Schubert's performance instructions as sacrosanct, for example the actual tempo indications, and so the better for our ears to hear it as Franz intended we do!

If you have not delved into the Schubert orchestral world this is a good place to start. And these versions are as good as any, pristine, mirthful at times, true-to-form, with a joie de vivre that brings it all very much to life here. Even those who have these symphonies would profit from the fresh hearing. I smile and say, maybe take a listen, why not? I very much approve. This one rollicks. It rocks!

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