Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Symphony no. 2
Symphony no. 3 'Rhenish'

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim
Deutsche Grammophon Galleria 469 554-2 (73.23 minutes)

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.

Terry Barfoot

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