Review By David Denton, Naxos,January 2009
Introduced to opera while in his early teenage years, Franz Schubert yearned to become a successful theatre composer, but many attempts had brought little success at his early death. He was fourteen when he began work on Der Spiegelritter (The Looking-Glass Knight), but gave up while still in the first act, though the overture (track 2) still remains. His next foray came with an overture to Albrecht’s comedy Der Teufel als Hydraulicus (The Devil as Engineer), soon followed by two concert overtures in D, both dramatic and remarkable from one so young, the second he later revised and found a place for it in his repertoire. His first completed opera, or more accurately a Songspiel, Des Teufels Lustschlob (The Devil’s Pleasure Castle) was probably written with his teacher, Salieri, as the guiding hand, and showed immense potential. The year 1815 saw Der vierjahrige Posten, Claudine von Villa Bella and Die Freunde von Salamanka, the disc ending with the Overture in B flat, its reason for composition now a matter of conjecture. If the two early overtures showed promise, the expertise that followed was extraordinary, and the lack of concert performances is strange. In mood he was still mainly in his dramatic era, the comedy of Der vierjahrige Posten, the one track that brings a welcome feel of jollity. The disc forms the first volume of Schubert’s complete overtures played by the Prague Sinfonia, a new name that takes over from the famous Prague Chamber Orchestra. It remains a compact unit of estimable quality but still lightweight in terms of strings. The result is a nicely transparent texture, Benda’s vibrant and well-paced performances deserving a greater sense of orchestral depth from the engineers.more....