Symphonies nos. 2 & 5
Antwerp Symphony Orchestra
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor
After a successful recording including Franz Schubert’s Symphonies no. 1, 3 and 4, Philippe Herreweghe goes back to the studio (this time with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra) to record the Symphony no.2 in B flat major, D125, and of the Symphony no.5 in B flat major, D485. Far from being negligible juvenile works as Schubert’s early symphonies have been considered for a long time, these two works reveal instead a considered and complex musical texture, reminding of great composers of a recent past, as Mozart (in the case of the Symphony no. 5).
The two symphonies are equally joyful and light-hearted. Not a shadow, not a pinch of melancholy shades their lively movements as Herreweghe and his orchestra deliberately perform them as vibrant, even glorious expressions of joie de vivre. When I say “glorious” I think in particular of the first movement of the Symphony no. 2 that dazzlingly opens the album with its infectious joy and that is performed here with such ebullience and vivacity that it is difficult to believe that it is fourteen minutes long. The following Andante is characterized by what can be considered a sort of Arcadian softness that anticipates in its middle section the tension of the Menuetto. The last movement, Presto, is a sparkling piece that Herreweghe conducts with the same energy of the first movement.
The Symphony no. 5 opens with an Allegro presenting more varied feelings in comparison to the first movement of the previous symphony, but it shares with it the same, lustrous colours that vein its music with subtle irony and some passages seem to display an impertinent imperiousness – of the charming kind that this music requires, needless to say. The Andante con moto is a pastoral movement, while the Menuet is more vigorous and brisk and easily reminds of Mozart’s Menuetto from the Symphony in G K550. The finale Allegro vivace is a brilliant piece of music performed with élan and spirit.
Herreweghe’s communicativeness makes easy to admire and love the two symphonies and his achievement is outstanding. The impact of these works on the listener is absolutely positive. The Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, moreover, plays with skill and the dialogue within itself is harmonious, so that the colours are perfectly balanced, with not a single group of instruments prevailing on the other.
This is really an amazing recording of Schubert’s Symphonies no. 2 and 5, a true delight for the ears which is performed with remarkable skill and inspiration.