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Schumann: Symphonies No 1-4 / Zinman, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra


Release Date: 03/22/2005 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 577430   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Hot on the heels of Daniel Barenboim's sensational recent Schumann cycle for Warner Classics comes this bargain-priced set that's every bit as fine while being interpretively at the opposite extreme. This means that you can acquire both and basically encompass the range of Schumann interpretation in modern sound and with musical values that match or exceed those of any past sets that you care to name. Zinman's light and lively view of this music was well documented by Telarc in his previous complete set of these works with the Baltimore Symphony. There his interpretations were diminished by a pervasive blandness that was largely the result of restrained dynamics, mellow sonics, and a soft-core,
Read more "traditional" approach to rhythm abetted by overly reticent brass and timpani.

Since that time Zinman has recorded a Beethoven cycle with these same forces reflecting the values of the Historical Performance movement, and he's applied those lessons here to excellent effect. Timpani use hard sticks throughout, the brass cut through the textures, and the strings never cover the winds. Listen, for example, to the well-balanced timpani in the first movement of the Rhenish Symphony, or to the perfectly clear woodwind scales at the end of the Spring Symphony's first-movement exposition (excellent recorded sound throughout certainly helps too). On the whole, Zinman's tempos are uncompromisingly swift but never rushed. The outer movements of the String Symphony explode with vernal freshness; the scherzo of the Second gives Mendelssohn a good run for his money, while the finales of the Rhenish and the Fourth never bog down in a seemingly endless chain of sequences.

Zinman also takes care to relate tempos logically to one another--the introductions of the Second and Fourth Symphonies to their respective first-movement allegros, for example--and through it all the playing of the Tonhalle Orchestra reveals total commitment. The horns do themselves proud throughout the Rhenish, while the strings show exceptional sensitivity and dynamic nuance as well as rhythmic precision. You won't find in these performances the sort of "cosmic" quality that more Romantic approaches bring to such passages as the transition between the Fourth Symphony's scherzo and finale, but this seems a small price to pay given such consistent inspiration all around. And who's to say that more than a few of Schumann's most passionate utterances, such as the Adagio espressivo of the Second and the Feierlich fourth movement of the Rhenish, don't sound even better when played (as here) at a nice, flowing tempo? Not I.

So don't make the mistake of viewing swiftness as metronomic inflexibility and clarity as coldness. Zinman reveals every bit as much care for matters of phrasing and balance as Barenboim gives to tempo and transitions; in any case, this is not a zero-sum game. Zinman's weighting of his interpretations in favor of certain qualities does not mean that others are absent. The wonderful thing about both Barenboim and Zinman is that at this late date, and in these works, we have two such totally different yet equally valid viewpoints, both of which justify yet another look at this oft-recorded repertoire. Excellence at this level serves only to renew our faith both in the vitality of the classics and in the ability of today's interpreters to triumphantly stand toe to toe with the greatest recorded documents of the past. [5/3/2004]

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 1 in B flat major, Op. 38 "Spring" by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Germany 
2. Symphony no 2 in C major, Op. 61 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Germany 
3. Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 97 "Rhenish" by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1850; Germany 
4. Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Notes: Composition written: Germany (1841).
Composition revised: Germany (1851). 

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