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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
Founder Len Mullenger   


Brilliant Classics

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Cello Concerto in A minor Op. 129 (1850) [21:58]
Violin Concerto in D minor (1853) [33:47]
Konzertstuck for four horns and orchestra in F major Op. 86 (1849) [17:53]
Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54 (1841 rev. 1845) [30:46]
Fantasie for violin and orchestra in C major Op. 131 (1853) [13:34]
Introduction and Allegro Appassionato in G major for piano and orchestra Op. 92 (1849) [16:08]
Introduction and Allegro in D minor for piano and orchestra Op. 134 (1853) [12:59]
Julius Berger (cello); Hansheinz Schneeberger (violin) (concerto); Francis Orval, François Tommasini, Robert Desprez, Robert Janssens (horns); Klára Würtz (piano) (Concerto); Ruggiero Ricci (violin) (Fantasie); Peter Frankl (Introduction and Allegros)
Südwestfälische Philharmonie/Florian Merz (violin and cello concertos); Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg/Pierre Cao (Op. 86); Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie/Arie van Beek (concerto); Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Kurt Masur (Op. 131); Bamberger Symphoniker/Janos Fürst (Opp. 92; 134)
rec. 1970s ADD; 1994 DDD (Op. 129 and D minor concerto)
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92277 [73:54 + 73:27]


Brilliant Classics 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 (Warner).

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 on Philips.

The Fantasie goes well with Ricci with the Gewandhaus and the pre-New York Phil Kurt Masur and Frankls accustomed integrity and poetry serve the two Introduction and Allegros well.

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.

Rob Barnett

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