£16 post free World-wide


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

What's New
Previous CDs
Labels index

Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
The Symphonies

Symphony No.1, "Spring", in B flat major, Op.38 (1841)
Symphony No.2 in C major, Op.61 (1845/46)
Symphony No.3 in E flat major, Op.97 (1850)
Symphony No.4 in D minor, Op.120 (1841/51)
Scherzo in G minor from Symphony in C minor (fragment, 1841) reconstructed and orchestrated by Joachim Draheim
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Recorded in Aufgenommen in Dum hudby, Pardubice, Czech Republic, March and July 2002
CLASSICO CLASSCD 431/32 [2CDs: 128:28]
Comparison: Sawallisch/EMI

Readers of classical record reviews often find it bewildering that the same performance can elicit extremely wide differences in opinion. I am even surprised when another reviewer’s conclusions are the opposite of mine. Upon reflection, it’s only natural that opinions might greatly diverge. Beyond basic music structure including the element of contrast, music is a highly emotional field. It has been with us since the beginning of humankind because of its impact on our hearts and souls, not our brains. The best a reviewer can do is point out general preferences and/or prejudices in order to give readers a fighting chance to break through the spectrum of personal opinion and make favorable buying decisions.

Douglas Bostock, the conductor of this new set of Schumann’s Symphonies, has consistently received a mix of glowing and disappointing reviews. At one end, he is considered a lumbering and clumsy conductor who generally employs inadequate orchestras and dispenses with any meaningful subtlety. At the other end, he is praised as an electrifying force whose recordings fully merit space alongside the best interpretations on record.

My review might add to a reader’s confusion, but I hope it will shed a little additional light on Douglas Bostock. In releasing a set of Schumann’s Symphonies, both ClassicO and Bostock have entered a very highly recorded field. There are literally hundreds of recorded performances with a staggering number of them being exceptional.

First, Bostock’s Schumann is hardly electrifying. He does well at conveying the music’s drama and forward momentum, but there’s nothing in these performances of a thrilling nature. Also, the volume controls need to be set very high in order for any sense of excitement to come through. In comparison, the Sawallisch readings are exciting even at low volume, as he consistently maintains strong tension.

A second concern is that the sound is on the diffuse side. Weak definition causes a reduction in tension, and that’s never a favorable condition in Schumann’s Allegros. Thirdly, versions of Schumann’s symphonies such as Sawallisch’s impart a strong dignity and stature that Bostock’s often rounded attacks do not allow. This is most noticeable in slow movements, the trios of the Scherzos, and in the slow introductions to the symphonies such as the fanfare of the 1st Symphony where Bostock only offers a small percentage of the nobility flowing through Sawallisch’s performances.

To Bostock’s credit, I do not notice any lumbering quality to his interpretations, and the orchestra fullfills its responsibilities in admirable fashion. Bostock isn’t the man to take full opportunity of nuance and subtlety, but he’s hardly on automatic pilot.

Finally, ClassicO touts its set of the Schumann Symphonies as being true to Schumann’s wishes through use of the Breitkopf Urtext Edition which is based on Joachim Draheim’s critical new edition that was published between 1993 and 2001. As the liner notes state, "The recording represents a consistent musical transposition of this new edition and refuses to make any compromises with a tradition marred by an overly free and negligent treatment of Schumann’s original indications pertaining to the instrumentation and tempo".

Such smug statements may sound convincing, but I detect little difference between Bostock’s and Sawallisch’s approaches. For better or worse, the new edition does not change the flavor of the music in the least. Bostock is a little leaner in texture than Sawallisch, but the difference is not of major proportions.

In conclusion, the new ClassicO set of Schumann’s Symphonies is rewarding but not among the most compelling accounts on disc. A diffuse soundstage, lack of definition on Bostock’s part, and a significant deficiency of nobility hamper the performances to the degree that I cannot recommend the set when better recordings are available at no more than the mid-price range from Sawallish on EMI, Kubelik on Deutsche Grammophon, and Szell on Sony.

Don Satz

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable Arcodiva
British Music Soc.
Northern Flowers
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.