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Download: Classicsonline

William SCHUMAN (1910-1992)
Symphony No. 8 (1962) [32:28]
Night Journey - Choreographic Poem for Fifteen Instruments (1947) [25:28]
Charles IVES, arr. SCHUMAN Variations on ‘America’ (1891/1964) [7:08]
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
rec. S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA, 21 October 2008 (8); 3 October 2007 (Night Journey), Seattle Opera House, 15 October 1991 (Variations on ‘America’)


Experience Classicsonline

Rejoice! With this disc Naxos complete their survey of the numbered Schuman symphonies. You will look in vain for symphonies 1 and 2: they were disclaimed by the composer. That’s a pity as it would be fascinating to hear these works of the 1930s. I have not given up hope.
Schwarz here has the conqueror-advocate’s measure of the bell-haunted Eighth Symphony. It was premiered in the Lincoln Center in 1962 with Bernstein conducting and was recorded by Bernstein the same year. That recording is easily and inexpensively accessible on a 1998 Sony CD alongside symphonies 3 and 5 via Amazon. While I still recommend that CD for an unassailably vital and kinetic Third Symphony Schwarz is to be preferred in the often more tensely reflective Eighth Symphony. He takes a minute and a half more than the comparatively opaque Bernstein but the Seattle results positively glow. This is a work that can be difficult to approach but I find it completely accessible in this Schwarz-Naxos version. Schwarz’s reading is as much of a revelation as Walter’s Brahms 3, Oramo’s Sibelius 6 and Ormandy’s Nielsen 6. The lucid and directly engaging recording is a co-conspirator in the results. The prestissimo finale showcases the audio engineering which accommodates solo strands and florid climactic material with a natural ease and without any sense of perspective zooming. Even Schwarz cannot completely transform the rather hollow gestures of the last page or two of this score but overall the Symphony emerges wonderfully well – better than ever.
Night Journey was one of four ballets on which Schuman collaborated with Martha Graham. Its spareness of utterance and angularity is only partly accounted for by the score which specifes fifteen instruments. A diminutive orchestra was not an unusual restriction for Graham ballets of that era – no doubt sensitive to cost and touring practicalities. The music has a Bergian astringency whether pensive, charged with nocturnal foreboding or fitfully frenetic. That inward quality echoes Barber’s tense dark chocolate romanticism but presents in more transparent textures. Night Journey has been issued on CD before by CRI but is not currently available. The Ives/Schuman Variations on ‘America’ is a brilliant showcase built around a song that most Brits will recognise as God Save the Queen. The familiar tune is put through some wheezingly irreverent transformations. This is in no sense a representative Schuman work but is full of left-field fun.
It’s too easy to forget the sponsors without whose sense of judgement and even courage we would not hear the music. It’s much to the credit of the National Endowment for the Arts that they have financial sponsored this disc.
The more than capable notes are by Schuman biographer Joseph W Polisi.
For enthusiasts of the orchestral Schuman and the American 20th century symphony this disc brings the Naxos Schuman project to a close in style.

Rob Barnett


Schuman – Schwarz – Naxos reviews on MusicWeb International:-
Symphony 6
Symphonies 3 and 5
Symphonies 4 and 9
Symphonies 7 10
Schuman reviews on MusicWeb International



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