clearly put some calculated thought
into their breathless programme of releases.
This is the only collection of the complete
Schumann concertante works in the catalogue.
As such it has real attractions and
complements the listener's favoured
set of Schumann symphonies whether it
be Kubelik (DG or Sony), Sawallisch
(EMI), Vonk (EMI), Marriner (Brilliant)
or most recently and imposingly, Barenboim
To assemble the complete
concertante works on two CDs Brilliant
have obtained licences from both Bayer
and Vox. The German Bayer catalogue
is nowhere near as well known as the
Vox. While the Vox tapes have been issued
time after time under various banners,
Bayer have kept themselves to themselves.
This is a pity as there is much in the
Bayer list that might well be of interest
including a complete Reger and Pfitzner
chamber music (on the Da Camera Magna
satellite) and Rachmaninov
orchestral music the latter with the
Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra.
I wonder if those series might possibly
be in Brilliant Classics' long-range
reissue roster. I hope so.
To the Schumann ....
The Cello Concerto
responds well to Berger's soulfully
dug-in style as well as to his sympathy
with introspection. Merz's rather four-square
angular approach to the orchestral part
is accentuated by the recording quality
which gives a startling and pleasing
presence to the brass. Presumably the
recording faithfully renders the resonance
of the Schuetzenhalle at Hilchenbach.
Merz and his orchestra
seem less than fluent at the start of
the Violin Concerto with its Beethovenian
rainclouds and contrasts. Schneeberger
digs deep into the solo part. Some bull-in-a-china-shop
defiance contrasts with the magical
end of movement transition (tr 5 into
6). This work is seriously marred by
a repeat and break between movements.
Overall the playing is full of effort
when it should ‘fly’. Not recommendable.
I have long loved the
Konzertstück. It is a work that
shouts exuberance and I love the gold,
amber, sharkskin tone and texture of
the French Horn. Despite being very
much older than the two concerto sessions,
the 1970s analogue sound is pretty respectable.
Hiss is not an issue. Some great stereo
separation is achieved. The horn quartet
acquit themselves with the right blend
of boisterousness and poetry. After
you have come away from Schumann's Second
and Third Symphonies with a real appetite
for the horn-lofted glories of Schumann's
writing this should be your next stop.
The Luxembourg Orchestra and Pierre
Cao were practised and confident hands
and this certainly shows. Without being
in the luxury class they produce a resolutely
enjoyable performance and sound.
It will be interesting
to read what other reviewers make of
Klara Würtz's version of the Piano
Concerto. It benefits from 1990s quality
recording and also a much more accomplished
account of the orchestral contribution
than was managed for the Violin Concerto.
The sound is generous beside the slight
asperity of the Concertstück sound-image.
Others have made more crystalline magic
of the little foreword to the allegro
vivace finale but Würtz certainly
tucks into the triumphal bravura writing
that follows. I liked the quoted Tovey
description of the music - recklessly
pretty! If the champagne seems to lose
its maximum effervescence in the finale
the performance overall is very pleasing
indeed if not stunning. I rather like
the Serkin version on Sony or the Kovacevich
The Fantasie goes well
with Ricci with the Gewandhaus and the
pre-New York Phil Kurt Masur and Frankl’s
accustomed integrity and poetry serve
the two Introduction and Allegros
These two discs are
packed tight with music. The collection
has the attraction of completeness even
if there are rough edges most prominently
in the Violin Concerto. The notes, in
English-only, are good and detailed
for each work. A pity that the dates
of the Vox-sourced recording sessions
are not offered up. Quite a bargain.