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Steven J Haller
American Record Guide, May 2009

I certainly hope Naxos intends to follow through—you can never have too many Schubert overtures!…From the very opening measures it’s clear the Prague players relish these sun-lit and tuneful pieces and respond with great enthusiasm and affection to the taut leadership of their chief conductor and artistic director, Christian Benda. (Yes, he’s a descendant of the prominent 18th Century Czech Bendas, and in fact—as our Index shows—he has recorded several works by that noble dynasty.) Tempos seemed spot-on—never rushed or too aggressive…With a little modest dial twiddling the moderately sized Prague forces as captured by the expert Czech engineers actually sounded quite room-filling…but at the Naxos price you really can’t go wrong with this treasurable Schubert bouquet. Volume 2 can’t come too soon for me! [Volume 2 is available on Naxos 8.570329]



John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, March 2009

You may feel drawn to this disc out of a sense of duty. You know that you ought to know more of Schubert’s overtures than the so-called “Rosamunde” or the Overtures in the Italian Style. So you put this disc on—and are immediately transported with a sense of sheer delight. What is more, this continues throughout the disc as one engaging work follows another. At the end you pour yourself another cup of Earl Grey and start again. Well, at least that was my experience…The notes by Keith Anderson helpfully explain the origins of each Overture, but I doubt whether you would be able to distinguish which is which without those notes. They are however unfailingly attractive, most with slow introductions followed by sonata-form movements. If you enjoy Schubert’s first three Symphonies, you will certainly enjoy these pieces which are very much in a similar vein and with similar virtues, especially in respect of the very characteristic scoring. Over and over again the listener will find themselves delighted by a turn of phrase, an unexpected harmony or deft orchestration.

Although clearly this is essentially down to the composer, much of the pleasure of the disc is also due to the bright but affectionate performances by the Prague Sinfonia, an expanded version of the Prague Chamber Orchestra. Christian Benda comes from a very distinguished family of Czech musicians and directs performances that are just right for these pieces, avoiding on the one hand blandness and on the other excessive point making. The recording quality is clear and full.

You will have gathered by now that I have had considerable pleasure from this disc. Completeness can be a mixed blessing, but on this occasion I am very glad that Naxos have decided to do this in respect of a category as unexpected as Schubert’s Overtures.



Robert R. Reilly
InsideCatholic.com, January 2009

I am a huge fan of Franz Schubert's music, so I was delighted by the new Naxos release of Vol. 1 of his complete overtures . Contained therein are nine spirited works from his teenage years—concert and opera overtures that are mostly unfamiliar, but are great fun. I do not mean this as a condescending remark; Schubert's preternatural genius was already on display in his teen years. The overtures are performed with wonderful verve by the Prague Sinfonia, under Christian Benda.



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2009

An excellent project is launched with this disc. In keeping with Naxos' policy of exploring the byways of music, nine delightful little overtures come to light. Unlike similarly titled 18th century works—which were generally extensive suites of dance movement—these little gems represent the precocious young Schubert attempting to break into the showbiz of his time. Whether he would have succeeded as a composer of operas is in doubt, if we consider the small number (two or three) that he managed to get published. But the overtures are another matter: they brim over with catchy melodies, and the structure and orchestration are really excellent. Christian Benda, scion of the illustrious Bohemian family of musicians, digs into these scores with gusto and the Prague Sinfonia rewards the listener with enthusiastic response and great sound.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2009

Introduced to opera while in his early teenage years, Franz Schubert yearned to become a successful theatre composer, but many attempts had brought little success at his early death. He was fourteen when he began work on Der Spiegelritter (The Looking-Glass Knight), but gave up while still in the first act, though the overture (track 2) still remains. His next foray came with an overture to Albrecht’s comedy Der Teufel als Hydraulicus (The Devil as Engineer), soon followed by two concert overtures in D, both dramatic and remarkable from one so young, the second he later revised and found a place for it in his repertoire. His first completed opera, or more accurately a Songspiel, Des Teufels Lustschlob (The Devil’s Pleasure Castle) was probably written with his teacher, Salieri, as the guiding hand, and showed immense potential. The year 1815 saw Der vierjahrige Posten, Claudine von Villa Bella and Die Freunde von Salamanka, the disc ending with the Overture in B flat, its reason for composition now a matter of conjecture. If the two early overtures showed promise, the expertise that followed was extraordinary, and the lack of concert performances is strange. In mood he was still mainly in his dramatic era, the comedy of Der vierjahrige Posten, the one track that brings a welcome feel of jollity. The disc forms the first volume of Schubert’s complete overtures played by the Prague Sinfonia, a new name that takes over from the famous Prague Chamber Orchestra. It remains a compact unit of estimable quality but still lightweight in terms of strings. The result is a nicely transparent texture, Benda’s vibrant and well-paced performances deserving a greater sense of orchestral depth from the engineers.






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5:11:38 PM, 31 July 2014
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