Georg SCHUMANN (1866-1952)
Symphony in B minor Prize-Winning Symphony (1887) [43:40]
A Serenade Op. 34 (1902) [29:46]
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Christoph Gedschold
rec. 10-13 March 2009, Munchen BR Studio 1
CPO 777 464 2 [73:32]
At some point it will no longer be necessary to say that long-lived Georg Schumann was unrelated to Robert Schumann; not yet though. That said, he is the elder brother of Camillo Schumann, whose cello works featured on a Naxos CD. Georg’s works have already had some recording attention. The Piano Trios 1 and 2, opp. 25 and 62 have been recorded by the Münchner Klaviertrio on CPO 777 712 2. His choral music can be sampled on Guild. The latter was preceded by a complementary Georg Schumann anthology from the Purcell Singers on ASV CD DCA1091. The connection with singing is unsurprising given his lifelong involvement with and leadership of the Berlin Sing-Akademie.
He was born in Saxony into a musical family. Having been taught violin and piano he quickly attained high standards. His musical alma mater was the Leipzig Conservatory. There he perfected his craft. His orchestration in particular, at least as represented on this disc, was highly skilled. While Gottfried Eberle’s lucidly flowing notes make some play of the Mendelssohnian style I thought much more often, in the Symphony, of Brahms and especially the Brahms of the first two symphonies. This Symphony in four movements is deeply satisfying. It is in the German romantic centre-stream originating from the Hamburg master and further suckled from Schumann and Mendelssohn. There’s a flowingly aureate Adagio, a quirky penultimate Allegro and a splendidly stirring, happy and finally imperious finale - Allegro. In fact the first movement is an Allegro also. Crudely put, you can think of this 45-minute symphony as being in the character of Brahms 2 and Schumann 3. There was to be at least one more symphony from him, written circa 1905 and in F minor. The F minor is said to win the listener over by virtue of its strong sense of unity.
The present Prize-Winning Symphony - it is Prize not Price so you can ignore the booklet and insert typos – made 21-year-old Georg’s name throughout the Germanic states.
Two decades onwards and the Serenade shows a more variegated mood palette. There’s a vivid imagination engaged here yet within the style of the times. Winged Mendelssohnian elfin-macabre is at play among the first two movements: sprites and spooks revel or drowse as they go about their fairy business. Eberhard Knobloch’s caressingly relished clarinet solo is at the centre of a most adroitly paced Ständchen. The brilliant finale has a Walpurgisnacht air – a nicely contrasting corrective to the other four movements. This work makes a good companion to the orchestral serenades of Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902) and Ignaz Brüll (1846-1907) which I have been getting to know through David Kent-Watson’s Cameo Classics CDs – also well worth seeking out (review in hand).
I hope that after this substantial orchestral prelude to the Georg Schumann revival there will be later instalments. These vigorous, dedicated and dramatically informed performances and fine recordings by Gedschold, his Munich orchestra and CPO need to lead on to further Schumann revivals. I hope they will take us to the F minor symphony, the oratorio Ruth, his First World War tone poem Struggle for an Ideal and an unpublished Violin Concerto.
No masterpieces on this disc but works of the real accomplishment and satisfaction and, in the case of the mature Serenade, of virile romantic imagination.
Rob Barnett
Works of real accomplishment, satisfaction and virile romantic imagination.

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