Schubert Symphonies 1-6, 8-9 Staatskapelle, Dresden / Sir Colin Davis BMG / RCA 09026 62673, four discs

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The Independent Culture
There is something heroic about Sir Colin Davis's refusal to follow fashion. He sticks to the "official" Schubert symphonies: the famous Unfinished (No 8) is included, but not the more recently rehabilitated torsos and fragments - not the fascinating "10th", nor the revealing E major, which shows just how Schubert got from the contained classical style of Nos 1-6 to the much more personal drama of No 8. Davis also doggedly insists that the introduction to the Great C major (No 9) is slow, despite the powerful evidence of the manuscript. But in general the touch is lighter, the pacing livelier on the whole in these Dresden performances than Davis's recent LSO form would have led one to expect. And the musical insights come thick and fast.

You know something is deeply right about a performance when it alerts you to musical subtleties in paragraph after paragraph, or when a familiar passage sets the hairs on the back of the neck bristling. What a dark, tortuous piece the Unfinished is - and how brilliantly Schubert re-works the old, over-used classical forms!

If all this suggests that the revelations are largely intellectual, then listen to the first movement of No 3. There's an ominous note in the Adagio introduction, as if the shadow of Mozart's Stone Guest had briefly fallen across the music; but then the clarinet slips free with its delicious, nose-thumbing fanfares and immediately the stage-coach is hurtling through sunlit landscapes. If the start of the Great C major is a little too plodding for my reconstructed tastes, the rest of the reading is as compelling as anyone could wish, with the astonishing, relentless finale driven - but not too hard. Add fine recordings, capturing the Lukaskirche acoustic to perfection, and you have a set that can hold its own in any company.