Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No.1 in B flat Op.38 Spring (1841) [33:04]
Symphony No.2 in C Op.61 (1846) [33:42]
Symphony No.3 in E flat Op.97 Rhenish (1850) [33:38]
Symphony No.4 in D minor Op.120 (1841) [32:31]
Wiener Philharmoniker/Riccardo Muti
rec. May, Oct 1993, Oct 1995, GroŖer Saal, Musikverein, Wien
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802081 [65:44 + 72:53]
This is Riccardo Mutiís second recorded cycle of the Schumann symphonies.
Newton here give them new life. The last time they appeared, after first issue
in the mid-1990s, was on an inexpensive Philips Duo (4685432) in 2001. The
first Muti cycle was made for EMI
Classics in 1976-78 in Studio 1, Abbey Road except for the two rare overtures
(Hermann und Dorothea and Die Braut von Messina) which were
set down in the Kingsway Hall. No sign of the overtures for the 1990s set.
Looking only at the four symphonies here are the timings of the EMI recordings:
No. 1 [33:48], No. 2 [36:41], No. 3 [35:47], No. 4 [31:53].
The signature of Mutiís Vienna cycle is that of a V12 power unit driven sleek,
fast and smooth. His orchestra is a superlative outfit with a string section
of seemingly invincible capabilities. Details are deeply etched and attentively
italicised. The sound is uniform and exemplary. That said, itís all too chromium-steel
even by comparison with Mutiís own 1970s self. Thereís no doubting the awe-struck
excitement but the yielding humanity is pushed back to the distant stalls.
I spent quite a bit of time with the second CD (2 and 3 ). These two symphonies
are the ones I listen to for pleasure. However itís as if this No. 2 is in
autopilot. It left me completely unmoved. The experience just flowed over
my ears. Nothing remained when it was over. The Third was different, I grant
you. It is excitingly done but the poetic movements went for very little.
The finale however I had to play several times. It has the zesty spinal buzz
of a top of the range Mercedes S Class driven very fast indeed Ė at least
if you can believe Jeremy Clarkson. Muti lays bare the leonine power of the
music. Even so, the Vienna horns are too discreetly placed and have a bludgeoning
iron roar rather than an imperious brazen-golden bloom.
This is certainly a set worth hearing for an encounter with an exultantly
driven elite orchestra. However thatís only a part of the picture. If you
want that part mapped onto Schumannís four symphonies then go for this but
it would not be anywhere near the top of my choices. Mutiís EMI set is to
be preferred on this occasion. Better still go for Barenboim (Teldec),
or Kubelik (Sony
If you are tolerant of older sound then donít overlook Boult (First
Hand) or Konwitschny (Berlin
Classics). The fluently literate and accessible notes are by Anthony Burton
(also in German and French).
Only one part of the picture.