If this set of performances had come from the latter-day Giulini, there probably wouldn't be much in the way of raised eyebrows, or critical hackles. After all, licence, especially to linger, is the prerogative of the 'old master'. But because Thielemann has just turned 40 and not 80, and has chosen to ignore completely the new literalism with which, presumably, he has grown up, he has, does, and will continue to court controversy. His previous Schumann release with this orchestra, which included the Second Symphony (1/98), was hailed in a rival review magazine as a classic of the order of Carlos Kleiber's Beethoven Fifth Symphony, greeted by me in these columns as 'a disc that cares and daresRead more in equal measure' and considered by the panel of the latest edition of an established record guide to be a total write-off.
Our world of printed reaction to recorded performance would indeed be a dull one if critical voices were consistently unanimous, but, for many, such divergence of critical opinion must be exasperating. As it happens, Thielemann's Rhenish is less controversial than his recording of the Second Symphony; less prone, as his incensed detractors would put it, to being 'pulled about'. The Third Symphony is, after all, a less troubled piece, and here the degree of tempo modification is more traditional than radical. But this Rhenish most certainly is broadly conceived, and sounded with the kind of depth of tone and loving attention to detail that any fine orchestra would give willingly to Giulini.
Indeed, parallels with Giulini extend to the surprisingly swiftly delivered 'cathedral polyphony' of the fourth movement. It is taken (like Norrington!) almost at Schumann's metronome marking - in other words, considerably quicker than Karajan and Sawallisch - and has, in context, the feeling of a prelude to the finale. Which is not to imply its grandeur is compromised. Far from it. There is a marvellous depth of tone, attack and wonderful resonant glow to the playing, with the antiphonally divided first and second violins filling the spectrum and illuminating the counterpoint.
Nowadays it is rare to encounter Schumann playing and recording that, to this degree, seeks out and illuminates the lyricism, the majesty, the poetry and the joy of the Rhenish, and always expands magnificently for its moments of arrival. It is also unusual to hear this kind of bloom on the playing. Some of it comes courtesy of DG's spacious Watford Colosseum setting (with its skilfully contrived perspectives), but the majority of it is enabled by Thielemann from his players.
The Overture to Genoveva is almost equally fine, if perhaps without the drama one might have expected (the detonations set off by conductors as disparate as Harnoncourt and Munch). Rather, the texture and workings here are integrated into an immensely satisfying, euphonious whole. Only in the Overture, Scherzo and Finale did I feel Thielemann's broad manner working against the music. And maybe the playing is less consistently resolute because the 'interpretation' is less settled in Thielemann's mind (or, perhaps all it needed was another complete take). After, say, Sawallisch or Goodman, most of it will come across as an overly serious, if amiable chug, with moments of fussiness (Schumann's Vivo and Vivace markings are largely ignored). Yet, even here, the Meistersingerisch gait may appeal, and the rich and splendid maestoso realization of the finale's main idea from 6'47 a form of justification for the broad manner, though the indulged lyrical response to it half a minute later is dangerously close to parody. Never mind. Thielemann's Rhenish is very, very special.
Genoveva, Op. 81: Overtureby Robert Schumann Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1846-1849; Germany Date of Recording: 06/1998 Venue: Colosseum, Watford, England Length: 8 Minutes 59 Secs.
Overture, Scherzo and Finale in E minor, Op. 52by Robert Schumann Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: Germany Date of Recording: 06/1998 Venue: Colosseum, Watford, England Length: 20 Minutes 4 Secs. Notes: Composition written: Germany (1841). Composition revised: 1845.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 97 "Rhenish"by Robert Schumann Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1850; Germany Date of Recording: 06/1998 Venue: Colosseum, Watford, England Length: 34 Minutes 31 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A Curate's EggJuly 25, 2016By Alex K. (Liverpool, United Kingdom)See All My Reviews"By this time Christian Thielemann's characteristics as a conductor are well known - he strives for subjective, rubato-filled, hopefully spontaneous-sounding interpretations in the manner of a latterday Wilhelm Furtwaengler. Audibly he seems to require his orchestras to unlearn whatever they thought they knew about a work in order to create it afresh, ensuring as a base line that any sense of routine is banished. This Schumann CD is classic Thielemann. The Philharmonia Orchestra sculpt the music bravely and poetically but tempi are mannered and the structure of the pieces is undermined. Rhythms in the Overture, Scherzo and Finale are sometimes listless while in the symphony passion and schwung are sacrificed to introspection and neurosis."Report Abuse