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Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, February 2011

Neville Marriner and his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra have been indispensable to the world of classical recording since they began recording in 1961. Here we have two serviceable demonstrations why. Marriner’s integrated set of the complete Schubert symphonies was recorded in the early ’80s (1981 to 1984 to be specific) and is abundant in the virtues of a chamber orchestra whose approach to classic repertoire has baroque contrapuntal clarity. Gordon Getty, on the other hand, is a contemporary composer best known in music for strongly tonal compositions involving voice, whether song cycles (“The White Election”) or operas (“Plump Jack” about Falstaff) or the choral pieces “Victorian Scenes” and “Annabel Lee.” On the other hand, outside of music, he is best known as the 78-year-old composing son of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. Don’t ask, then, from where the money came for such a scrupulous and appealing performance of Getty’s charming, if unremarkable, music. The paradox is that when played without voices in 2009 by such redoubtable forces as Marriner and his orchestra, Getty’s music almost convinces you that it’s worthy of them. You can bet, though, if you were hearing it from a lesser orchestra, you wouldn’t think so., February 2011

In the case of what Schubert intended to be heard in his symphonies, things can get very complicated indeed, as becomes clear in Newton Classics’ re-release of the full set of 10 Schubert symphonies led by Neville (not yet Sir Neville) Marriner, recorded from 1981 to 1984. Of course, “everyone knows” that Schubert wrote nine symphonies, not 10…well, really eight, since there is no performable No. 7. But Marriner and his collaborator, composer/conductor Brian Newbould, turned conventional wisdom on its head with this Schubert set. There are indeed 10 Schubert symphonies: No. 7 was finished but never fully orchestrated (although the orchestration was begun, providing plenty of information for the completed realization by Newbould heard here); No. 10 exists only in part, but that part shows Schubert at the very end of his life reaching even beyond the famous “Great” C Major symphony, No. 9. Furthermore, Newbould provides a completion for the “Unfinished” symphony, using Schubert’s sketch of the scherzo and pulling in a finale from elsewhere in the composer’s oeuvre (it comes from the incidental music to Rosamunde). This set also offers two Newbould completions/orchestrations of symphonic fragments, one lasting 7½ minutes and the other, more substantial one lasting 17½ . It is certainly possible to fault a number of these performances: tempos tend to be quick, the grander movements sometimes lack stature, and there is often a superficiality to the interpretations that makes them pleasant enough but scarcely of any great importance. Furthermore, unlike the 1980s releases of this set, the one from Newton Classics contains only the sketchiest of booklet notes, with no substantive information on how the “Unfinished” was completed, why No. 7 is never played, and where the fragments and No. 10 come from. This is a real shame, since no other Schubert cycle has ever been as ambitious as this one in gathering all the composer’s symphonic attempts, completed and incomplete alike, into one place. Nevertheless, this set is a wonderful one to have, precisely because Marriner and Newbould offer music that is not available anyplace else, providing the most complete portrait of Schubert the symphonist to be found anywhere—and in performances that, while not interpretatively ideal, are very well and cleanly played and are presented with a great deal of spirit. Is this what Schubert intended to leave the world in his symphonic output? Doubtful—but until someone else comes up with an even more complete set of Schubert’s symphonic works, this one will stand on its own as the sole recording that has tried to give listeners absolutely everything symphonic that Schubert produced., December 2010

Collected here are the seven-and-a-half symphonies we know Schubert composed plus the two-and-a-half that Brian Newbould has realised from sketches (the two halves now combine to finish the ‘Unfinished’) plus other Newbould-fulfilments of Fragments. Thus this comprehensive set of Schubert’s symphonism, enjoying Marriner’s crisp and stylish conducting of articulate tempos and ‘modern’-playing application, is recommendable for extending our Schubertian appreciation.

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12:08:40 PM, 27 January 2015
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