Symphony no. 2
Symphony no. 3 'Rhenish'
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon Galleria
469 554-2 (73.23
The Schumann symphonies are particularly well served in CD, and the reissue
of Barenboim's Chicago intnsifies the compeition still further. These
performances date from 1977, and they feature top-class orchestral playing
and direction. There are other options in performing this music, certainly,
but they are no better than Barenboim's romantic commitment and flowing tempi.
The recorded sound has come up splendidly in this new transfer. Listen to
the inner detail captured in the lithe shapings and shadings of the first
movement of No. 2, for example. The music had a sense of élan which
is shared by the performance of the Rhenish Symphony also.
Schumann seldom indulges orchestral virtuosity, but these are undoubtedly
virtuoso performances. No rival version can boast better horn playing, whether
in lively passage work on in the braod sonorities of the evocation of Cologne
Cathedral in the Rhenish. One slight caveat in this fourth movement, however,
is that the bass pizzicati seem unnecessarily obtrusive, rather than supportive.
But anyone seeking to explore this repertoire will be well rewarded by these
urgent and compelling performances.