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Schumann: Complete Symphonies / Gardiner


Release Date: 03/11/1998 
Label:  Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog #: 457591   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Gavin EdwardsSusan DentRobert MaskellRoger Montgomery
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 21 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

These fervent performances reveal sculptural definition, brightness, clarity and beauty of a previously undisclosed intensity.

"Conductor John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique have recorded Schumann's orchestral music using period instruments and adhering to period performance practices. The effect is analogous to the restored ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Stripped of the meddling of others (added parts, re-written transitions, etc.) and the blurred tonal qualities that large modern ensembles can create, these fervent performances reveal sculptural definition, brightness, clarity and beauty of a previously undisclosed intensity... The set also includes a dazzlingly virtuosic
Read more performance of Schumann's Konzertstuck for Four Horns and Orchestra (1849) and two "almost" symphonies: the promising, never completed "Zwickau" Symphony, composed in his youth, and the Overture, Scherzo and Finale (1841), with its passages of surprising delicacy and elfin fantasy.... There are previous period recordings of Schumann's symphonies... but these performances are the most brilliant, penetrating and communicative." – Elliot Ravetz, Time Magazine (8/1998)

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Of all the 19th-century composers who have been given the ‘period instrument treatment’ in the last couple of decades, Schumann’s reputation has perhaps gained the most. Long criticised for his supposedly opaque orchestration, and for symphonic structures which fell somewhere between the tunefulness of Schubert and the serious integrity of Brahms, it has taken the clear textures and energy of the period bands to bring this music back to life.

There have already been several reassessments on disc, but this handsome new DG collection strikes me as the best complete set so far. Ever the original, Gardiner has performed these symphonies with the violins and violas standing (as was the practice in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Schumann’s day); and though it might seem perverse to say one can hear the results on CD, I was certainly aware when listening to these thrilling performances of a vigour and projection to the string playing which is all too often lacking. Speeds are brisk but never driven too hard: awkward moments such as the scherzos in the First and Fourth symphonies have an appropriate lightness, but Gardiner is prepared to enjoy movements such as the Adagio espressivo of No. 2, with its exquisite oboe melody.

Like Harnoncourt in his recent Teldec Schumann cycle (with the COE – modern instruments but ‘period’ manners), Gardiner gives an airing to the seldom-heard original 1841 version of Symphony No. 4; but whereas the Harnoncourt set fits on to two CDs, Gardiner’s extra playing time allows not only the more familiar 1851 revision of this work, but also Schumann’s two not-quite symphonies and the wonderful Konzertstück for four horns. The recordings manage to be both magnificently detailed and warm, and DGproduction values are high throughout. Strongly recommended.

5 out of 5 stars for performance, 5 out of 5 stars for sound.

– BBC Music Magazine

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“Schumann revealed” says the outer cover to this set. That is a fair enough description, when John Eliot Gardiner here displays in high romantic symphonies the same combination of acute scholarship and imaginative insight that has marked so many of his revelatory baroque recordings. The first point to note is how much more comprehensive this is than previous cycles, even the outstanding RCA set of period performances from Roy Goodman and the Hanover Band. That offers the Overture, Scherzo and Finale in addition to the four numbered symphonies, but No. 4 comes (without being identified on the cover) in the rare first version of 1841.

Gardiner offers both versions, 1841 and 1851, and his performances of them are very well geared to bringing out the contrasts. Still more fascinating is the inclusion of both the early, incomplete Symphony in G minor (named after Schumann’s home town of Zwickau), and the Konzertstuck of 1849 for four horns, with the ORR soloists breathtaking in their virtuosity in the outer movements, using horns with rotary valves crooked in F. Otherwise, except in three specified movements, natural horns are used, braying clearly through orchestration which always used to be condemned as too thick.

As Gardiner says in his note, “Our aim has been to help untangle and to explode some of the popular myths, such as the one that Schumann was a gifted amateur who could neither orchestrate nor translate the poetry of his solo piano music and Lieder into full orchestral forms”. Later he points out how Schumann was “quick to learn from his own mistakes”, making an exception only over the 1851 revision of the D minor Symphony. Gardiner, like Goodman before him, fairly points out the merits of the 1841 version in transparency and other qualities, suggesting, as others have, that the doublings in the later version make it safer and more commonplace. Brahms preferred the earlier version – so positively that it led to a serious rift between him and his beloved Clara Schumann, who expressly forbade the publication of the 1841 text. Paradoxically in performance, Gardiner is if anything even more electrifying in the later, more thickly upholstered version, as ever clarifying textures and building up to a thrilling conclusion, with successive accelerandos so daring they have one on the edge of one’s seat.

Even the Zwickauer Symphony of 1832 emerges as very distinctive of Schumann. So much so that one questions the Beethoven parallels drawn in John Daverio’s commentary on it in the booklet. Gardiner rightly performs it without apology, bringing out powerfully in the two completed movements the clear and original anticipations of later Schumann. It is, incidentally, a merit of the layout of the set on three well-filled discs that the eight works appear in chronological order.

The contrasts between Gardiner and Goodman in their approach to the numbered works are not as marked as I expected, often as much a question of scale and recording quality as of interpretative differences, with Goodman’s orchestra more intimate, and with the RCA sound a degree less brightly analytical. Both prefer fast speeds, with Goodman a shade more relaxed and Gardiner more incisive, pressing ahead harder, with syncopations – so important in Schumann – more sharply dramatic.

There is an exception in the last two movements of No. 2, where Gardiner is markedly more expansive in the radiantly lyrical Adagio and less hectic and more joyful in the finale. One advantage that Gardiner has in his slightly bigger scale is that he brings out more light and shade, offering a wider dynamic range. Hence the solemn fourth movement of the Rhenish Symphony inspired by Cologne Cathedral – as with Goodman taken at a flowing speed – builds up more gradually in a bigger, far longer crescendo, in the end the more powerful for being held back at the start.

Though the Goodman set still holds its place in presenting an intensely refreshing view of these masterpieces, Gardiner not only goes a degree further in that process, but offers a conspectus of Schumann as symphonist that is all the richer and more illuminating for the inclusion of the extra rarities. Gardiner concludes his note: “Towards the end of his life Schumann’s four published symphonies were understood by the more perceptive of his contemporaries as constituting the most significant additions to the repertoire since Beethoven. Our aim is to revalidate that claim.” It is hardly too much to suggest that in that he has succeeded triumphantly.'

– Edward Greenfield, Gramophone 6/1998
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony in G minor "Zwickau" by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832-1833; Germany 
2.
Symphony no 1 in B flat major, Op. 38 "Spring" by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Germany 
3.
Symphony no 2 in C major, Op. 61 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Germany 
4.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 97 "Rhenish" by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1850; Germany 
5.
Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Notes: Composer: Robert Schumann.
Version: 1841 
6.
Overture, Scherzo and Finale in E minor, Op. 52 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
Notes: Composition written: Germany (1841).
Composition revised: 1845. 
7.
Concertstück for 4 Horns and Orchestra in F major, Op. 86 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Gavin Edwards (French Horn), Susan Dent (French Horn), Robert Maskell (French Horn),
Roger Montgomery (French Horn)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 

Featured Sound Samples

Symphony no 2: IV. Allegro molto vivace
Konzertstück: I. Lebhaft
Symphony no 3 "Rhenish": I. Lebhaft

Sound Samples

Symphony In G Minor "Zwickau" (Unfinished): 1. Moderato - Allegro
Symphony In G Minor "Zwickau" (Unfinished): 2. Andantino - Intermezzo:Allegro assai - Andantino
Symphony No.1 In B Flat, Op.38 - "Spring": 1. Andante un poco maestoso - Allegro molto vivace
Symphony No.1 In B Flat, Op.38 - "Spring": 2. Larghetto
Symphony No.1 In B Flat, Op.38 - "Spring": 3. Scherzo (Molto vivace)
Symphony No.1 In B Flat, Op.38 - "Spring": 4. Allegro animato e grazioso
Overture, Scherzo, And Finale, Op.52: 1. Overture (Andante con moto - allegro)
Overture, Scherzo, And Finale, Op.52: 2. Scherzo (vivo)
Overture, Scherzo, And Finale, Op.52: 3. Finale (Allegro molto vivace)
Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120 - Original Version (1841): 1. Andante con moto - Allegro di molto
Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120 - Original Version (1841): 2. Romanza: Andante
Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120 - Original Version (1841): 3. Scherzo: Presto
Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120 - Original Version (1841): 4. Largo - Finale: Allegro vivace
Symphony No.2 In C, Op.61: 1. Sostenuto assai - Un poco più vivace - Allegro ma non troppo - Con fuoco
Symphony No.2 In C, Op.61: 2. Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
Symphony No.2 In C, Op.61: 3. Adagio espresssivo
Symphony No.2 In C, Op.61: 4. Allegro molto vivace

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Schumann Complete Symphonies  September 30, 2013 By M. Formosa (Victoria, BC) See All My Reviews "A great buy for those who want all of Schumann Symphonies! Elliot Gardiner is a top notch conductor,this is the perfect Schubert set.Mary Formosa." Report Abuse
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