Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 3,
; No. 4
Hermann und Dorothea:
Thomas Dausgaard, cond; Swedish CO
BIS 1619 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 76:30)
Listening to this disc, the last in Thomas Dausgaard’s estimable chamber orchestra series, is rather like taking an
obstacle course in a small, highly maneuverable compact car. You feel every single bump along the way, but oh what a ride! This could be close to being the most thrilling Schumann symphony series on the market, with sawing violins smoking down to the bridge and timpani-like rifle shots. The detail is also amazing, if I may continue to use the automotive analogy: the smaller the car the more detailed you see the road as well, and even proximity to another car can send a bit of a rush up your spine.
I suppose I should mention that I don’t drive a small car right now, but a used Lexus GS300, and that baby glides through traffic in a way that makes an obstacle course obsolete. And there are lots of Lexus recordings out there that I have mentioned before that will serve the needs of those wanting a traditional performance of either of these pieces. And believe me, I have nothing against tradition—my favorites in this music will most likely continue to be Bernstein, Szell, Barenboim, and Chailly for the Mahler version. But Dausgaard has given us something special, a reading of streamlined breeziness and pedal-to-the-metal exhilaration. Actually to hear some of the underlying string rhythms in these pieces is a truly unique experience, while Schumann’s ever-present but not often heard counterpoint is a revelation in this recording. I suppose I could have done without the rush to the finish in the first movement of the “Rhenish,” but I can forgive the conductor a few petty slips of judgment.
I have not heard the disc with Nos. 2 and 4 (1841) yet, but be sure to know that No. 4 on this disc is the final 1851 version, and not Schumann’s earlier first thoughts that some swear by. He was insecure enough with this work to want to add instrumental doublings and linkages between movements and some think it nothing less than an oracle from heaven to hear the composer’s first thoughts. Not me. Oh, I can live with version 1, but I do not think that the preferment shown to his last considerations in any way denigrates the work at all, and that his second thoughts in this instance may actually be the better of the two. Aside from the rather quick opening bars, which tend to destroy some of the mystery that everyone hears in this music, the rest of the symphony is well fitted and tremendously played.
I won’t waste too much time on
—Bernstein owns this one, with Giulini second—but instead present a defense for the inclusion of
Hermann und Dorothea
. This much-maligned piece had great and noble beginnings, an opera based on the epic verse by Goethe of the same name. It then migrated to a
, and to an oratorio. Schumann tiring of the effort he perceived would be needed to bring the thing to life, finally completed (in just a few days) the Overture alone, dedicating it to Clara, and finishing it in conjunction with the revision of his Fourth Symphony. The work is stirring and slightly tragic, using the French
as a prominent theme (the work tells of the confusion of lovers in the aftermath of the French Revolution). As such, the piece becomes almost a mini tone poem, well played here with a lot of spark, and making a nice filler to fatten up this highly recommended album. Like the others in the series, the SACD sound is marvelously placed and really opens the curtain on the soundstage.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120 by Robert Schumann
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1851; Germany
Notes: Composition written: Germany (1841).
Composition revised: Germany (1851).
Manfred, Op. 115 by Robert Schumann
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1848-1849; Germany
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