52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  


AmazonUK   AmazonUS Superbudget

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61 (1846) [37.24]
Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120 (1853) [30.42]*
Orchestre des Champs-Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe
rec. Cité des Congrès, Nantes, January 1996; *Salle Wagram, Paris, December 1996



It would be easy enough to trot out all the usual critical clichés for Philippe Herreweghe's period-practice Schumann: the clear, relatively lightweight sonority of the Champs-Elysées orchestra permits wind detail more easily to register, allows for more mobile tempi, and so forth. All this would be true - and, ultimately, beside the point. It is rather Herreweghe's musicality and energy - traits hardly restricted to musicologists! - that make this recording, and some of his others, special.

The Second Symphony is an excellent case in point. The slow introduction flows easily at an Andante-ish tempo, so the ear more easily follows the music's progress and takes in its overall structure. Yet, both here and in the similarly paced Adagio - which eschews straining at metaphysical "depths" - the purposeful shaping of the long phrases with gradual crescendos and diminuendos produces a sense of weight and importance comparable to that of standard performances. The main theme of the first-movement Allegro doubles strings and winds, save for a single bar allotted just to the strings; that momentary contrast becomes quite striking here. The Scherzo runs its course with assurance: the violins manage, with the subtlest inflections, to mark off individual phrases within this moto perpetuo-style writing without disturbing the pulse, an effect duplicated in their running legato ribbons in the blazing Finale.

The Fourth benefits from similar ministrations. Herreweghe captures the music's taut drama as well as do the best "modern" performances - my dark horse favorite is the Kubelik/Sony - while giving the music's lyrical side its due. At times, his reading sounds uncommonly relaxed. The first movement brings moments of almost becalmed repose, offering a respite from the surrounding turbulence. In the codas of both outer movements, the Champs-Elysées players undoubtedly could have handled conventionally driven tempi better than, say, Muti's frazzled Philharmonia (EMI), but Herreweghe's less pushed treatment is shapely as well as propulsive. The Romanze sings sweetly, as does its reminiscence in the incisive Scherzo.

Too frequently, historically informed performances of the standard repertoire offer little beyond a "different" sound. Not in this case, though: Herreweghe makes us hear these scores afresh, simultaneously projecting their full symphonic stature. Warmly recommended, especially in this midpriced guise. Harmonia Mundi gives the timing as 66.15, cheating itself by a few minutes.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

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.