This will be a very brief review as the previous reviewer appears to have covered all the bases.Suffice to say that as an admirer of the Schubert symphonies I found this recording to be outstanding in its interpretation,playing and recording quality.I purchased the C.D on the basis of the previous review and was not disappointed.Absolutely magical!
Having loved the Great C Major for many decades I read the main review and decided to buy this CD. I have not been disappointed. The sound is rich and the music is beautifully played (as one would expect from the combination of conductor and orchestra) and this rendition will do me very nicely, thank you. Heartily recommended
These are all vivid performances of character and intense beauty. I bought this set to replace my LP version of the ninth and it sounds even better on cd than I thought it would...and I expected it to sound tremendous! This is a bracing, life affirming reading of the ninth and has long been my favourite period performance of this work.
The fifth and eighth are equally strong, imaginative, performances and it is interesting to hear the Newbould "completion".
I cannot recommend this bargain double disc set highly enough. These are my favourite Mackerras recordings. These are performances of distinction, which deserve their place in my collection, proving valuable insights into these masterpieces alongside Kertesz, Solti, Bohm, Abbado, Sir Colin Davis, Beecham, Bernstein, Kleiber, Giulini.... as well as Boult and Munch in the ninth.
To get this much good-to-great music in high-quality sound for this price could be called an outstanding bargain. When in addition the performances vary from very good to absolutely superlative, we are out of the mundane world of bargains altogether. To start somewhere, this is in some ways the best Great C Major I have ever heard. The accounts of the 5th symphony and the Rosamunde ballet music will also stand comparison with the very best. Beecham was unique for sure in the 5th, but neither this nor anything in Rosamunde is the greatest Schubert. The Great C Major is, for me, his ultimate masterpiece: its second movement is, for me, the most sublime slow movement in all symphonic literature, and here Mackerras simply surpasses everyone else I know - and then does the same again in the Scherzo & Trio. His handling of the outer movements seems to me more a matter of personal taste. You will get an idea what to expect after a few words on the Finished Symphony in B minor. Mackerras takes a straightforward approach to the familiar Allegro and Andante, as indeed to everything else on these two discs. Tempi are not too slow, the expression is natural and unaffected, the playing is magnificent. It is all a beautiful fusion of scholarly care and a deep feeling for the uniqueness of the inspiration. At this level of interpretation, preferences are a matter of temperament, but if you buy these two discs for these two movements alone you will not have made a mistake. However you will also find here a reconstruction of the Scherzo & Trio from Schubert's sketches by Brian Newbould plus the dear old B minor entr'acte from Rosamunde doing a turn as the 'finale'. The Scherzo material is promising, but one suspects that the composer knew that it would need supplementing to bring it up to the level of its great companions. As for the B minor entr'acte, it does not sound to me like a finale to anything, whatever Grove and the unnamed modern scholars may think. I am happy to have it just for itself. The C major starts fast, the speed exactly half that of the Allegro ma non Troppo, so that there is no speeding up in the transition. Mackerras does not slow down for the second subject, he makes the exposition repeat, and he takes the final statement of the opening theme at the speed of the Piu Allegro coda, i.e. rather fast just like at the start. In the early 1950's I heard a version of this symphony by Krips with the Concertgebouw that came nearer than any other -- before Mackerras -- to my idea of it. This was despite a flaccid Scherzo and an irritating way of anticipating the beat in the two Andantes. Krips took the opening Andante slowly, speeded up for the Allegro, omitted the repeat, did not slow down for the second subject but broadened his speed markedly for the final appearance of the opening theme. Recent practice is more in line with Mackerras - but do you believe that unifying the tempo is something vital or, as I think, of no relevance whatsoever? How fast the opening Andante should be is an issue indeed, and I like both Krips and Mackerras here. Tying its speed to the Allegro leaves me indifferent, and I have yet to be convinced that Mackerras is not simply too fast in his final presentation of the opening theme. The second and third movements are just perfect. After all these years Mackerras gives the first account of the Scherzo & Trio that has satisfied me, and especial mention must be made of the glorious hurdy-gurdy tone of the woodwind in the Trio. The last movement depends utterly on that stupendous tune - if there is a greatest tune in all the world, surely this is it. But it does not need over-playing as by Furtwangler or Toscanini, nor over-phrasing as by Boult. Mackerras, like Krips, underplays it beautifully. The other thing it does not need is repeating, and unfortunately at the time of this recording the 'Repeats-Are-Compulsory' reign of terror was at its height. And that is the solitary fault I have to find with Mackerras in this finale. The sound of the period instruments is gorgeous. Normally you will not find me frantic to hear Authentic-As-Never-Before Messiahs; and I positively flinch at any threat of fortepianos. But when scholarship and musicianship combine as here, I am convinced. The orchestral balance is natural too - the thrill I get from Krips's tramping 2-bar polka rhythm in the first movement development or his hushed but oddly prominent accompaniment to the tune in the finale is probably an illicit pleasure connived at by the recording engineers in a way that would not be tolerated today. Technically Mackerras is a far better conductor than Krips, and I now have a better idea of how my favourite symphony bar none ought to sound.
Believe everything the other reviewers have said about this wonderful Schubert bargain. Sir Charles Mackerras's interpretation of this music is second to none and the recordings are good to excellent. Given the current Amazon asking price this is surely one of the great bargains of the classical music CD repertoire. If you don't know these works you are in for a great treat and if you do you will be astonished as the way they come up clean and refreshed.
For an alternative view of Madkerras' Great C Major there is a Philharmonia recording on Signum that is worth getting if this Virgin set is not available Schubert Symphony No. 9.
Everything - bar one point - written in the first review is right. This is superb. My only gripe with the first reviewer is that he doesn't like repeats. Well - Schubert wrote in the repeat: he should be heard. Also, having heard the whole enormous edifice of the opening statement through once, one can only wish to hear it again.
How can I add anything meaningful to what has already been said. It's a truly wonderful double CD bargain. The OAE with Mackerras deliver memorable performances throughout although it's the 9th Symphony that does it for me. It has become my new 'reference' version - repeats and all. The recording took place in the Abbey Road Studios and is of a very high order, bringing out the sublime rustic texture and timbre of those period instruments.