Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 3,
Kent Nagano, cond; Berlin Deutsches SO
ARTHAUS 101 431 (DVD: 88:00) Live: Berlin 2006
Arthaus releases a most interesting new DVD with Kent Nagano and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in their series of Classical Masterpieces. This time, we can enjoy a very noteworthy performance of
Schumann’s Third and chronologically last symphony, the “Rhenish.” Recorded live at the Philharmonie in Berlin, Nagano’s performance is one we are used to hearing from him—insightful, fresh, and extremely detailed in every way. In the same manner, we can hear his intelligent music-making on recent Harmonia Mundi releases, such as Brahms’s Fourth Symphony or Bruckner’s Sixth. Nagano’s care for big phrasing and singing pays off indeed; throughout the entire symphony he carefully balances the tension, making Schumann’s music sparkle. The relationship between orchestra and conductor is one of understanding and mutual respect. Every single musician is intensely dedicated to the score, which makes just looking at them a pleasure on its own.
The first movement is not an easy one to conduct. Many conductors fail to keep the relatively long movement exciting till the end. However, Kent Nagano brilliantly succeeds in displaying the wonderful structure this work really is. His care mostly goes to rhythmical pulse and beauty of sound. The intermezzo-like middle movements are beautifully performed, albeit a little restrained at times. The DSO Berlin seems to be a very serious orchestra with a great number of young players, and their overall performance could bear just a little more smoothness in the sound. The energetic fifth movement turns the end of the symphony into a majestic, broad climax. The brass and woodwinds blend marvelously well together. This, combined with the colorful dark string sound makes this performance quite memorable.
Much as I’d like to praise this recording, I still must admit it cannot quite live up to some of my long-term favorites. The Staatskapelle Dresden under Wolfgang Sawallisch’s baton on EMI is one such example; it still remains one of the best-played and best-recorded sets available, even today. Further, George Szell’s complete set of symphonies with his Cleveland Orchestra on RCA, dating from the late 1960s, remains unsurpassed—completely different, with a mainly onward rushing pulse, but with genuine and virtuosic musicianship. Other fine alternatives are Riccardo Muti with the Vienna Philharmonic on Philips; elegant, but swift. And last but not least, there’s Giuseppe Sinopoli’s insightful reading with the Staatskapelle Dresden on DG—most interesting, but hard to find.
The DVD comes with a documentary concerning Schumann’s life around the time he wrote the symphony and the making of this performance. It provides a very interesting experience. Kent Nagano is a good teacher who goes deep into the matter with very few words. There are various interviews with musicians behind the scenes, helping to make Schumann come a lot more alive to the public. Also included are some cartoon sequences, showing us Schumann and his wife Clara in conversation about the Symphony; it’s somewhat interesting to look at, but in the end, it looks quite ridiculous altogether (voices and images are not of the best quality).
This new DVD Arthaus release offers a live performance of exquisite quality and a documentary that is educational in every way. So if you’re not yet acquainted with Schumann’s often complicated symphonic scores, this is the opportunity to dive in.
FANFARE: Bart Verhaeghe
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (all)
Menu Language: English, Spanish, French, Japanese
Subtitle Language: French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese
Running time: 36 mins (concert) + 52 mins (documentary)
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