Review by georgeflanagin January 15, 2011 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
|ADHD Summary: Best appreciated and enjoyed by people who would like to get acquainted with the music through un-affected performances delivered via quite good recordings, rather than by Schumann collectors looking for the edges of interpretation in the repertoire.
For music that is not among my favorite listening, I have foot of shelf space devoted to varying realizations of this music. I am still trying to find the version that corresponds to what I hear in my head, and the music of my mind always seems more powerful and robust than any of the performances that I have heard.
This disc of this music:
These works are standard warhorses of the classical world. The order of (re)composition of these works is #1, #4 original, #2, #3, #4, #3, #4 ... with the revision process stopped only by mental degeneration, and eventually death. This recording states that it is devoted to the final versions, the new urtext editions of all four works. The symphonies are delivered without fillers, which means the total time is just 122 minutes. On the other hand, the selling price seems to also be just a little above single disc cost.
If Schumann interests you, you should add the original version of #4 (Dausgaard/Swedish CO/BIS SACD-1519) because it is so different from the revised version. The differences in orchestration alone show where Schumann was headed over the course of his life.
Packaging is a single CD width plastic jewel case, and the liner notes are mainly pointed toward the urtext focus of this recording. There is a lot to read, and the type is tiny.
As a group of four performances, these are the most consistent and unified I have heard after the Szell/Cleveland SO recordings of 1958 and 1960, also available on Sony SACDs SS 89381/2. This opinion is my support for the claim that these recordings are a worthy introduction to these symphonies, and make them a good choice if you have or want only one set.
Beermann keeps things moving forward throughout all four symphonies, and the orchestral balance is such that only rarely does the music sag under the weight of Schumann's preferred use of the string sections. Schumann's orchestration via the strings in #3 and #4 remind me of layers of paint that have been applied to an old house without much thought to the usefulness of stripping down to the wood, sanding, and starting afresh.
As a counterexample, listen to Mahler's reworking of the orchestration on BIS CD-361 and CD-394. If Mahler /lightens/ the orchestration, you know it must be thick to start out with. Or if you don't find what you hear to be sufficiently leaden and thick, put in Celibidache's live account of #4 with Munich from 20 September 1986.
Highlights of these performances are Symphony #1 throughout, the first and fourth movements of #3, and the finale of #4. Overall, I find nothing that I dislike. Tempi are on the fast side in the slower movements, but as I have mentioned, this speed something of the help that the music needs from the performers and conductor.
In stereo, these are good, clean, modern recordings without much in the way of the effort to mix in a lot of "stuff" to get an exciting sound. In my opinion, this is a good choice for this music, and I am certain this opens up the big can of worms about whether one should always take the "record everything that can be recorded" approach, or whether one should adapt the recording to the music being played. I am on the side of the latter when it comes to orchestral music.
My spectrum analyzer reveals that there is a steep fall off in the top octave of the sound, which is consistent with a lack of "spotlighting." How steep? More than 20dB/octave above 8KHz. Even if you are in your mid-50s, it will lack a little "sparkle" compared with many recordings you may enjoy more from an entertainment perspective.
That's not to say the recordings are bad. They are good. In fact, I have never heard high frequency sparkle in a concert hall anything like some of the recordings that I have. Sound is increasingly well absorbed as the frequency increases, so it is to be expected that listening to an orchestra at a distance of fifty feet is not going to sound like it does at five feet with the volume turned down.
I have not listened to the CD layer, nor have I listened to the surround.
Bottom line: At USD 25 for the retail price, this is a good buy. You will know after listening whether or not you like Mr. Schumann's symphonies, and if you decide you do, then this is quite a good frame of reference for future listening.
Was this review helpful to you?