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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61 (1845-6) [34:39]
Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, Op. 97 (Rhenish) (1850) [30:52]
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
rec. March 1946 (2), November 1949 (3), NBC Studio 8H, New York
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC584 [66:20]

Andrew Rose brings about the expected sonic transformations of two decent-quality NBC radio broadcasts. The Rhenish, which RCA has been issuing in various formats for decades, here sounds big and bright; the opaque tuttis distort slightly, but details like the Lšndler's high unison horns cut through impressively. The C major symphony is nearly as good, but less consistently vivid below mezzoforte. The string sound is true; the wind choir, in the dry acoustic of Studio 8H, occasionally leaps from the speakers with startling presence and depth - the fanfare near the finale's start actually registers more strongly than the tutti coda.

The C major's first movement takes time to settle: there's a brief patch of iffy coordination near the start, and the trumpets have trouble getting their low tones to speak. At the Allegro proper, however, the conductor brings out the violas' tremolo, producing continuity with the slow introduction. He slides into the development equally smoothly, and, once it had got going, I stopped noticing the details - the music just carried me along.

The other movements fall short of that level. The violins sound frazzled in the driven Scherzo, though the playing is dazzling; both "leadback" passages from the Trios begin tentatively. The flowing Larghetto is perfectly judged, but the conductor pushes ahead slightly into both climaxes. The finale begins buoyantly -- striding proudly, with breathtaking violin runs -- but Toscanini slows down, unconvincingly, for the clarinet episode at 2:38. Still, the Larghetto motif in the bass registers clearly, and the woodwind chorale that follows is poignant.

This compact Rhenish is persuasive, though the opening movement doesn't quite surge: the textures are unvaried. In the Lšndler, you can, for a change, actually hear the right scansion from the start, and the reprise is joyous. The third movement, Nicht schnell, seems a bit schnell - it's practically an intermezzo - but sings simply and easily, with a clear overall shape. The Feierlich, while distinctly alla breve, remains spacious, with plenty of textural variety, and the finale is hearty enough. The journey is satisfying.

The inclusion of the introductory and closing announcements for each performance is a nice touch.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Previous review: David Dunsmore



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