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Stephen Francis Vasta
MusicWeb International, March 2013

The Prague Sinfonia is an expanded successor to the old conductorless Prague Chamber Orchestra, with the presence of Christian Benda as director allowing for more strongly profiled performances. Schubert’s scoring is often heavier than you might expect, and Benda knows how to keep the textures clear and springy without losing the needed sense of weight. The playing is lyrical and driving as needed, and the ensemble sound mostly compact and focused…

…I won’t hesitate in recommending this handy collection, especially as most of this music has not been readily available…Benda’s taut, characterful accounts outclass Menuhin’s stodgy Alfonso und Estrella and his tentative control in the others. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Hurwitz, March 2010

As this second volume of overtures shows, there really is quite a bit of little-known Schubert orchestral music. Perhaps the biggest discovery for many listeners will be the turbulent Overture in E minor, but there are more than a few substantial pieces here. The two Overtures in the Italian Style are delightful, and so true to their models, and all of the music here is very well played and recorded. Christian Benda and the Prague Sinfonia deliver a particularly vivacious account of the Rosamunde Overture, just the opposite of the thick and heavy “German” approach that we so often hear, while Fierabras also has plenty of energy. The sonics capture the players very naturally, with nicely present woodwinds and excellent balances between brass and strings. No qualms here: Go for it.

Mortimer H. Frank
Fanfare, November 2009

Volume 2 in a series tagged “Complete Overtures,” this release contains music that, save for the familiar Rosamunde Overture and the two “in the Italian style,” is comparatively unfamiliar. In general, if not always, comprising top-drawer Schubert, it nonetheless abounds in traits that stamp his genius: an exceptional gift for melody, a prevailing lyric buoyancy, and occasional ventures—especially in some slow introductions—that offer haunting harmonic excursions into dark areas. All of these traits emerge in these fine performances, at once unmannered, animated but unhurried, and benefitting from transparent orchestral textures and a sonority that is never too weighty. Certainly for those who care about Schubert (which should encompass at least 99 percent of our readership), this is a disc well worth acquiring, especially at its bargain price. The sound throughout is first-rate.

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, August 2009

Volume 1 of this set was immensely enjoyable (8.570328); but nowhere near as much as the present volume. The Overtures are arranged in rough chronological order, so that whilst those in the first disc were undoubtedly enjoyable, it has to be admitted that none could be described showing the composer at the top of his art. When we come to the present disc, however, we find not only several pieces which are deservedly very familiar and often played, in particular the two Overtures in the Italian Style and that usually known as “Rosamunde” (D644), but above all the immensely impressive Overture to “Fierabras”. Whilst the opera to which it belongs may be a lost cause it is extraordinary that the Overture is not played more often. It has all the characteristics and quality of Schubert’s later Symphonies and Piano Sonatas. The present performance combines urgency and sensitivity and if you do not have a recording already the disc would probably be worth having for it alone.

The first three Overtures on the disc are all relatively lightweight but utterly delightful. Although the two “in the Italian Style” do make use of some of the manner of Rossini Overtures who was very popular in Vienna at the time, they now seem even more “in the early Schubert Symphony style”, with delightfully fresh melodies, copious use of solo wind instruments, and a prevailing cheerfulness of manner. The two “Rosamunde” Overtures are too well known to need comment, but like all the rest they are played here with great panache. Amazingly despite certain superficial similarities between all the various Overtures I found that the disc was one which it was a great pleasure to play through as a whole.

The recording is clear without being too close, and the booklet notes are helpful and well laid out. To have all of Schubert’s Overtures on disc may seem a luxury, but with performances like this you can only wonder why it has not been done before.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

The second volume of Franz Schubert’s overtures covers most of his mature life from 1817 to 1823, and points to his search for recognition in the theatre.  Opening with a cheerful concert Overture in D major from 1817, the pair of Overtures in the Italian Style are purported to have taken their inspiration from Rossini, though the opening of the first—the better known of the two—comes straight from Beethoven. There is a feeling akin to Italy in the second, but even here it is more in the mind than the content. Central to the disc is one of his best known works, Overture to Rosamunde, originally composed for a failed Hofmann play, Die Zauberharfe, and written in the summer of 1820, the same year that saw the playwrite’s Singspiel, Die Zwillingsbruder (The two brothers), and though the overture received kind words, the work was an equal failure. The first performance of a concert Overture in E minor comes from 1821, a strong and dramatic score using symphonic forces that includes four horns, two trumpets and three trombones. Schubert held out great hopes for his romantic opera, Alfonso und Estrella [2.110260],but to confuse matters that overture also became an Overture to Rosamunde, though a poor relation to the one we know by that name. Another Singspiel, Die Verschworenen (The Conspiritors), added to the list of failures, but at least had an overture almost as powerful as that to Fierabras, a fine opera that was revived in Schubert’s 1997 bicentenary year. As with the first volume [8.570328] the Prague Sinfonia is rather lightweight in terms of strings but that gives a nice transparent quality, here with a fulsome brass department to add impact to Benda’s well-paced performances.

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