> Robert SCHUMANN - The Four Symphonies [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
The Four Symphonies

Symphony No. 1 Spring (1841) [30.40]
Symphony No. 2 (1846) [34.38]
Symphony No. 3 Rhenish (1850) [31.51]
Symphony No. 4 (1841 rev 1851) [29.27]
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
rec Feb 1998, Henry Wood Hall, London, DDD
licensed from Hänssler Classic
not available separately
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99950 [2CDs: 61.01+64.05]


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At Brilliant Classics’ ridiculously low price this set has considerable virtues though not in preference to either of the Kubelik sets (DG-Eloquence or Sony Essential Classics).

The Academy have been augmented to full symphonic strength so there is no question of lightweight textures. The recording is warm and this tends to cloud textures to some slight degree. On the other hand it accentuates the weighty roll and rasp of the horns in the lebhaft of the Rhenish; a movement that works thunderously well as does the scherzo and the finale of the Fourth Symphony in which Marriner delivers a real Beethovenian pesante in the manner of the Seventh Symphony. Marriner does not dawdle. His Schumann is pretty fleet of foot and things often fly along with Mendelssohnian wings - almost as if he was impatient. Indeed there are moments when you may think you have drifted into a performance of the Italian or Scottish symphonies or indeed the Sullivan Irish symphony. Take the exciting high octane scherzo and allegro molto movements from the Second Symphony. String tone is all you might wish for with no shrillness. This is a great credit not only to the Academy but also to the recording team of John Timperley and Andrew Keener.

This set cannot be a first recommendation in such a competitive field. It is however a safe enough bet for the first time buyer who wants a resilient unindulgent and bargain basement introduction to the Schumann symphonies in very modern digital sound. A little effort to track down the Sony Essential Classics version in which Bavarian Radio forces are conducted by Kubelik will deliver greater satisfaction.

The extensive notes are in English only. I just wish that Brilliant would make use of those single width cases for 2CD sets rather than their dumpy space-eating standard coffret.

Rob Barnett

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