With playing that is affable, good mannered, modestly
unassuming and well recorded this would be a pleasing avenue through
which to learn and fully appreciate the symphonies. The performances
are warm and rich, possibly a little laid-back although this last may
have as much to do with the South German temperament as with Kubelik's
perspective on Schumann.
The experience of hearing these recordings is never
less than warming. The Rhenish is grandly Brahmsian, stately
in the Sehr mäßig and the French Horns roll and roar
as if through a mist of golden wine (listen to them at 5.19 tr. 2).
In the Fourth Symphony (actually written between those we know as numbers
1 and 2) there is a searing fire especially in the finale and the chamber
voicings (oboe, cello, viola) at the start of the Romanze second
movement are put across in a mellow light. Similarly praiseworthy are
the readings of the first two symphonies.
At bargain price little is at stake and the set can
be recommended in that spirit streaming with sturdy energy and ripe
with romantic striving. Kubelik's early 1960s recordings with the Berlin
Phil have yet greater vitality too but the sound does not have the depth
and breadth of colour found here. But then these recordings were made
almost twenty years later.
Sony are surprisingly random in their provision of
recording information. These sessions from the high tide of the analogue
age are fully documented. Turn to the Serkin-Ormandy-Schumann CD and
you will find not even a date. The Sony Essentials Tchaikovsky 4 and
5 have no provenance information on the disc for the Fourth but full
details for the Fifth.
If you are looking for a set of Schumann symphonies
with even more fire in its belly then try Solti (Decca), Hans Vonk (EMI Red
Line) or Sawallisch (EMI). I have heard parts of the Solti and Sawallisch
sets in the past but must go by favourable reports on the Vonk. Franz
Konwitschny is also highly recommendable on Edel - Berlin Classics unless
you have non-negotiable objections to mono. The Konwitschnys have stood
long service and deservedly so going back to their Fontana and Contour
days on vinyl long players.
The following set has been reviewed elsewhere on this
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
The Four Symphonies
Symphony No. 1 Spring (1841) [30.50]
Symphony No. 2 (1846) [37.09]
Symphony No. 3 Rhenish (1850) [32.57]
Symphony No. 4 (1841) [29.34]
Genoveva Overture [9.17]
Manfred Overture (1849) [11.56]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelik
rec Berlin, 1963, 1964, stereo, ADD
Two discs each available separately
ELOQUENCE Deutsche Grammophon 463 200-2 [78.06] (symphonies 1-2)
ELOQUENCE Deutsche Grammophon 463 201-2 [75.14] (symphonies 3-4)