Symphony No. 8 (completed by Maria Venzago) Kammerorchester Basel/mario Venzago Sony 88985431382 43:07 mins
Most attempts that have been made to complete the Unfinished Symphony, including this new one by Mario Venzago, have based the finale on the first entr’acte from Schubert’s music for the play Rosamunde, which is in the appropriate key of B minor. For the symphony’s Scherzo, Schubert left a complete draft, though there’s no more than a trace of what he intended for the trio section. Venzago speculates that the Symphony was actually complete when Schubert sent it to his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner in Graz, and that he subsequently asked to have the finale
back, as he wanted to use it for his
Rosamunde music, which had to be composed in a hurry. Hüttenbrenner, suggests Venzago, simply tore the manuscript in half, and the last two movements have been lost ever since. It’s all a bit far-fetched, really, and Venzago’s completion of the Scherzo, with two trios (again adapted from
Rosamunde) following one after the other, is uncharacteristic of any 19th-century symphony. A nicer touch is the way he brings back the first movement’s opening bars near the end of the finale.
Venzago’s no-nonsense approach to the Symphony’s two completed movements includes swifter than usual tempos. The first movement, in particular, is rather hard-driven, and the heavy ritardando at end of the famous second subject is ill-judged. In the end it’s hard not to feel that any attempt to round out Schubert’s uniquely great symphonic torso is doomed to failure. Misha Donat