In 1990, when explorations into various types and forms of music were made by YHB, the world of "classical" was one of those investigated. Immediately, one of the favored composers emerged: Franz Schubert (1797-1828), a native of Vienna, who, in a remarkably short period, put forth an enormous amount of great music that was underappreciated in his lifetime, though now he is recognized as truly one of the great composers in history.
Schubert worked in a dizzying array of musical forms in short order: in about a decade between roughly 1820 and 1830 he wrote nine symphonies, over 600 lieder or songs with vocals, operas, religious works, solo piano, and chamber music. In fact, Schubert's work with lieder and the fact that his melodic gifts were so pronounced led many critics and others to conclude that he lacked the weight and gravity of such masters as Beethoven or Bach. Notably, though, Schubert's work might actually be favorably viewed as heir to the work of Mozart, who also had a preternatural gift for melodic invention.
While he is probably best known for his chamber music, including such renowned works as the "Trout Quintet" and "Death and the Maiden," as well as for the lieder, Schubert also created masterpieces in the realm of symphonies, including his "The Great" Symphony in C-Major, or his Ninth, and the Unfinished Symphony, or the Eighth (these and the Seventh were not numbered until decades after the composer's death.)
Today's entry focuses on a somewhat obscure recording of Schubert's Fifth, Eighth and Ninth symphonies along with a few shorter pieces, including the famous devotional chamber work, "Ave Maria." The 2-CD package was recorded by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and the Slovak Chamber Orchestra, produced by a company in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, and reissued by a German firm.
As is with the case with so much of classical recordings, the fact that the orchestras are not considered "top tier" does not at all mean that the playing or recording quality are inferior (at least not to amateur ears such as those belonging to YHB.) This is great music by a master composer rendered in a beautiful way by high quality orchestras.
Notably, this package was purchased, along with several others in the series, at, of all places, the Tuesday Morning store several years ago and many hours have been spent thoroughly enjoyed listening to the CDs. There are certainly dozens, maybe hundreds, of recordings of these major works of Schubert available on a variety of major and so-called "discount" labels. Most of us, though, would hardly know the difference relative to the performance quality.
In any case, Franz Schubert is among the greatest of composers and certainly at the highest level of what is often referred to as the "early Romantic" period, on par with such luminaries as Mendelssohn, Rossini and Paganini, among others. While to some, Schubert might not seem as powerful, deep or profound as Beethoven, but for remarkable quality in a sheer variety of a prolific nature, he is one of the most remarkable composers the "classical" world has ever known.