Schumann: Symphonies 1-4/Sawallisch

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 8

There are three (or four) indisputably great Schumann symphony cycles–Bernstein’s (Sony or DG), Szell’s, and this one. All three have one thing in common, however different their approaches in other respects: they take the outer movements of each symphony with tremendous excitement and verve, making sure that wind parts and contrapuntal lines sound clearly. The virtues of Wolfgang Sawallisch’s performances are well known and include his eruptive way with the “Spring” Symphony, the virtuosic scherzo of the Second and its brilliantly triumphant finale, the blazing energy he brings to the opening of the “Rhenish”, and the thrilling first-movement development of the Fourth (has its motto theme’s triumphant first appearance ever been better prepared and executed?). Of course, different listeners will have their own favorite passages, but uniting it all is the superb playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden. Toss in the best-ever version of the Overture, Scherzo and Finale (an unjustly neglected masterpiece if ever there was one), and you have a set that belongs in every serious record collection. A/B comparison with previous issues reveals very little sonic improvement in this new remastering, save for the higher-level transfer. On some systems these performances tend to sound overly bright, though I have always found them excellently balanced and, if not exactly mellow, never strident or shrill. A magnificent reissue.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This One, Szell (Sony), Bernstein (Sony or DG)

ROBERT SCHUMANN - Symphonies Nos. 1-4; Overture, Scherzo and Finale

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