Schuman was one of
the USA's most eminent symphonists. He deserves to be counted with Roy Harris,
Paul Creston, David Diamond and Howard Hanson. His Third Symphony
and Violin Concerto are works of instantly commanding mastery.
Like Diamond he was unfairly seen as a bit of a 'suit' which
is completely at odds with the uncompromisingly fierce intensity
and even violence that runs through his music.
Both these symphonies
have been recorded before but they have never sounded as good
as they do here. This is only part of the story. In the case
of the Seventh the typically explosive Vigoroso,
while clearly powerful, lacks the feral attack of Abravanel
in his Utah Symphony version now on Vox. The Schwarz reading
is a mite more relaxed and less searing than the old 1977 Vox
version. Things hot up for the Scherzando brioso but
overall this is Schuman served up cooler than white hot.
The Tenth Symphony
was recorded on a mid-1980s RCA disc deleted some years ago.
That version was conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Once again the
temperature is limited and although there is a gritty strength
as in the con fuoco first movement. Much more successful
is the Larghissimo - any Schuman largo is a potentially
a force to be reckoned with - which has the same intense virtues
as the parallel elegiac movement in the Ninth Symphony. The
finale is invigoratingly brusque in Schuman's best toweringly
colossal manner. More delicate is the bell-chiming wonderland
(a little like Malcolm Arnold) that lies at the centre of the
The Seventh was written
as a Koussevitsky Foundation commission and was premiered by
Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony on 21 October 1960.
The Tenth was written
for the American Centennial in 1976 and was premiered by the
National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. It is
dedicated to our country's creative artists, past, present and
future. The work owes its existence to the suggestion of the
composer's wife that he should revisit for inspiration his early
choral setting of Whitman's Pioneers! O Pioneers!
This disc joins the
excellent first Naxos release which provided us with symphonies 4 (with many
of the wartime strengths of the Third) and 9 Fosse Ardeatine.
While the spirit and
sense of flowing inevitability of these interpretations does
not stand full comparison with previous recordings the issue
is largely academic as the alternatives cannot be easily chased
down and these readings are by no means unsatisfying. As you
would expect with Schwarz they breathe in the composer's inspiration.