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.