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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Schumann At Pier 2 [271:00]
Symphony No. 1 in B flat major Spring (1841) [31:07]
Symphony No. 2 in C major (1845-6) [37:20]
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Rhenish (1850) [32:17]
Symphony No. 4 in D minor (begun 1841; revised and completed 1850) [30:11]
Schumann at Pier 2 - A concert film by Christian Berger [116:00]
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen/Paavo Järvi
rec. Pier 2, Bremen, Germany, 2012
C MAJOR 711908 [DVDs 1-2: 155:00; DVD 3: 116:00]

Considering my interest in promulgating classical music amongst potential young audiences this set interested me greatly. The young are, all too often, brought up on a relentless diet of pop music. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have anything against pop and I enjoy some of it. Even so this set has compelling attractions particularly because it made its educating so appealing and interesting. The greater part of this review will concentrate on that facet.
 
As director of these films, Christian Berger, explained “My goal was to present a music documentary which can touch people, like myself, who grew up with pop and rock and music videos - people who perhaps occasionally listen to classical music but do not possess an in-depth knowledge of it. I wanted to bring the music out of solemn concert halls, present it in an unusual location and get as close as possible to see how the conductor communicates with the orchestra. And, at the same time, to provide some information to help the viewer understand the music better.”
 
So the chosen location was certainly an unusual one - a series of concerts in an industrial landscape: a former dockyard building formerly devoted to welding but now converted into a concert hall mainly for pop music. Interestingly, the front seats, almost settee-like, were reserved for young people.
 
One of the documentaries goes into fine detail about how the filming was set up including placement and movement of cameras, placement and purposes of microphones and set design. One of the best educational notions is the placement of members of the orchestra: violinist, cellist, clarinet player and timpanist against a completely white background. In this way attention is fully focussed on them while they explain the opportunities and challenges a certain passage in a Schumann symphony presents and how things are shaded and nuanced. The timpanist, for instance, explains his choice of sticks and technique to enable the optimum emotional and dramatic effect. Conductor, Paavo Järvi, is also featured in this way. He explains his role and gives a thorough but entertaining view of the Schumann symphonies touching upon the composer’s life, genius and flawed psychological makeup and how these affected his music.

The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie is a self-governing chamber orchestra. Each member is a virtuoso and they govern themselves on democratic lines. They have performed all over the world to acclaim. They appoint their own music directors - currently Paavo Järvi.
 
Most music-lovers learned to love the four glorious Schumann symphonies as they were studying the basic classical repertoire. Suffice to say that under Järvi, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen is fresh-sounding and spontaneous - full of emotional insight, dramatic tension and excitement.
 
Certainly this is not only for music-lovers wanting a fine set of these four glorious symphonies but also for those new to classical music and wanting to know more about the genre. The message is conveyed in a no-nonsense, straightforward manner.
 
Ian Lace

Masterwork Index: Schumann symphonies