"Purely from a historical performance viewpoint, there is much of interest here: Staier plays on an 1825 Johann Fritz four-pedalled fortepiano. (…) Very much a disc worth hearing, then, and one that will surely complement some treasured modern instrument performances of these works." ~musicweb-international
Acclaimed for his great recordings of works by Mozart and Berlioz, it is a little surprising that Sir Colin Davis is not equally hailed for his superb renditions of Schubert's symphonies, a repertoire for which this conductor's blending of Classical elegance and Romantic passion is perfectly suited. Previously released as a box set in 1996, this RCA Complete Collection reveals Davis as a masterful interpreter of Schubert's unique uses of symphonic form; and his performances have real momentum and coherence, the two qualities that hold these symphonies together. Davis' sense of trajectory is plainly evident in the first six symphonies, which adhere to Classical models and depend on forward motion and clear structures to convey the unity of their movements. But propulsion is even more critical in the more expansive frameworks of the Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished," and the Symphony No. 9, "The Great".
Is there a better trio than the Florestan playing today? All three members are consummate artists, outstanding instrumentalists, and ensemble players to the manner born, but it’s the playing of pianist Susan Tomes that carries these performances to their greatest heights. Since the ensemble is perfectly judged by all concerned, it may seem unjust to single out the playing of one member for special comment, but such is the extreme sophistication, the extraordinary subtlety and the expressive range of this artist that I can see no alternative. The tonal control, the exquisite shaping of phrases, the rhythmical suppleness and structural backbone are of an order seldom encountered in the playing even of many famous soloists. But what renders her playing here still more remarkable is the exemplary precision with which it’s matched to the different sonorities and qualities of attack, so-called, of the string players. And what players they are. For all of the above this is not a pianist-dominated performance, except insofar as Schubert wrote the piece that way.
It would be difficult to imagine a finer account of this extraordinary work than that of the Melos Quartet and their distinguished guest. The flow of the music is magnificently sustained, its colour and inner life marvellously felt. There is a spontaneity to the playing that perfectly complements the profound whimsicality of Schubert's journeys to remote tonal regions, along with a sensitivity ideally suited to the meditative quality of the composer's lyricism. The recording is warm and spacious, richly nuanced, and admirably balanced.
The great Bohemian-born composer Gustav Mahler once said, "A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything." Over the course of its nearly 300-year life, the symphony has indeed embraced almost every trend to be found in Western concert music.
Extraordinary interpretations of Schubert's C major fantasies by András Schiff, alone (on the epochal 'Wanderer-Fantasie') and with violinist Yuuko Shiokawa on the under-acknowledged Fantasy for Violin and Piano D934. Schiff: 'Schubert has such modernity -perhaps his time has only arrived now. Composers of today - like Kurtág, Ligeti, Rihm and Zender - worship Schubert. He was one of the greatest composers ever.'
How poor the piano literature for four hands would be without Schubert! This musical form is indebted to him for its most significant enrichment — ranging from the popular marches to works of virtually symphonic size. The roots of the genre sprang from different soils. Schubert's musical invention was so prolific that often the two hands of a pianist proved to be insufficient, and thus the performance of complicated counterpoint, the countless subsidiary themes and delicate harmonic details demanded two pianists and four hands, resembling the four parts of a string quartet.