Franz Schubert’s Symphony in C major very much deserves its popular designation: it is indeed “The Great.” After all, its playing length of an hour means that it transcends the dimensions of everything that came before it. Moreover, with this mighty feat Schubert was very much inviting direct comparison with the works of a certain composer who was almost thirty years his senior: Beethoven. Peter Gülke and his Brandenburg Symphony discover hidden and more obvious allusions while situating this gigantic work, complete and unabridged, in a previously hardly noticed, surprising comparative context and present the results in vibrant SACD sound.
Striking parallels there are indeed, in particular the reminiscences of Beethoven’s Seventh: similar forms of motion along with comparatively compact thematic material, the relations between the keys of the individual movements, stalled progress in the funeral march – under Gülke’s expert conducting the multifaceted relations come to light. What is unexpected: Schubert carries the motivic work to its (often merciless) end much more systematically than Beethoven. What a perfect command of form – and let us not forget: Schubert never heard a performance of his symphony!
And what about the “Ode to Joy” theme, which was famous even then? It is as if Schubert were showing his great predecessor the right way to do musical things. Inclusion of what today is the “Anthem of the European Union” in a classical symphonic movement? For Schubert, no problem. Beethoven had his doubts about the conclusion of his Ninth Symphony? Well, Schubert didn’t. Does one need a chorus to perform it? Not in Schubert.
On this recording Peter Gülke once again shows why he has been showered with the highest honors in the field of music and the study of literature. Just in time for the two hundredth anniversary of the Brandenburg Theatre, he and his orchestra are in top form. In keeping with the festive occasion – and the outstanding importance of the work – Schubert’s symphony is heard in luxurious threedimensional sound. Genuinely great music conveyed in magnificent audio form!