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

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
The Four Symphonies

Symphony No. 1 Spring (1841) [34.33]
Symphony No. 2 (1846) [39.05]
Symphony No. 3 Rhenish (1850) [32.50]
Symphony No. 4 (1841 rev 1851) [29.13]
Overture: Manfred (1848) [12.06]
Bavarian Radio SO/Rafael Kubelik
rec Herkules-Saal, Munich, Germany, 18-26 May 1979 (1-3), 27-30 Sept 1978 (4, Manfred) ADD
Both discs available separately
SONY ESSENTIAL CLASSICS SBK48269 [76.13] (1 and 2)


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SONY ESSENTIAL CLASSICS SBK48270 [73.54] (3 and 4)



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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.

Rob Barnett

The following set has been reviewed elsewhere on this site:-

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)

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