Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Overtures: Manfred, op. 115, Hermann und Dorothea, op. 136, Die Braut von Messina, op. 100, Julius Caesar, op.128, Genoveva, op. 81
Berlin Symphony Orchestra/Lior Shambadal
Recorded 5th- 8th September 2000, Siemens-Villa, Berlin-Lankwitz
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 74321 80782 2 [51.47]
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I thought at first that the recording lacked bass a little, but what has happened is that Shambadal has balanced Schumann's recalcitrant orchestration with such a fine ear that it is shorn of its usual muddiness. Nobody listening to the brilliant, even gleaming, sound that comes off this disc would imagine that Schumann is widely considered a poor orchestrator.
Shambadal also obtains a fiery, spine-tingling response from the orchestra in the fast passages and much poetry in the softer ones (I am thinking of The Bride from Messina in particular, also the dying away at the end of Manfred), with a wide dynamic range. He is one of those conductors who can vary his basic tempo without losing sight of it, so the structure of each piece is ideally clear. In short, everything you could want from a Schumann conductor is to be found here. I had not encountered Shambadal before (he is in his early fifties, comes from Israel and has been conductor of the present orchestra since 1997) and I shall listen to his further discs with great interest.

If there is a reservation to be made about this CD it regards Schumann himself. The Manfred and Genoveva pieces are justly well-known, and The Bride of Messina is a fine piece. But Hermann und Dorothea is little more than a romp on a very well-known tune (the booklet doesn't let the cat out of the bag so neither will I) and Julius Caesar is a mere ragbag of stock dramatic gestures which never gel to make real music. Whatever would people say if a British composer had written it?

Still, the record's so cheap that the three good works are worth double the price on their own, and you may not agree with me over the other two.

Christopher Howell.

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