This is one of the most all-round satisfactory (digital) cycles of the Schubert symphonies. Gunter Wand has been called a master of the core German romantic repertoire — a fitting characterisation as this set will attest.
While purists will argue that Wand follows a traditional approach to the symphonies, the validity of his interpretations cannot be argued. True, there are fleeter performances of the early symphonies, closer to the composer’s period performing practice, by the likes of Bruggen, Zinman, Immerseel and Minkowski to name but a few. But the orchestral playing and steady conducting make this set worth listening to.
There is much to admire here. The WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne produces a rich, full-bodied tone that suits the late symphonies. The Unfinished is dark and dramatic, while The Great with the exquisite orchestral balance and the conductor’s bold pacing is unquestionably one of the finest on disc. And while Wand also has an excellent coupling of the last two symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic on RCA ( considered by many even better than these earlier performances), I find the interpretations of this set to be of equal merit.
The recorded sound with the 24-bit remastering is excellent. If I had to choose a digital cycle of the Schubert symphonies this would be among my top choices. Wand performs these works with plenty of character aided by the first-class playing of the orchestra. In other words, if you want to listen to the Schubert symphonies elegantly performed, combining the lyrical and darker side of this Great composer, and in excellent sound, without the conductor’s ego getting in the way, the present set is a great investment.
Günter Wand conducts Schubert [Box Set] (Symphonies & Rosamunde),
WDR Sinfonieorchester, Günter Wand
Sony Music – RCA Red Seal