Simon Gaudenz / Odense Symphony Orchestra

Schumann: Symphonies

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In this superb audiophile package of the four symphonies of Robert Schumann, Simon Gaudenz, and the Odense Symphony Orchestra give clear and focused performances that serve to clarify the often-criticized orchestration and to create a nearly chamber-like atmosphere in many passages. By avoiding the conventional homogenous orchestral blend, reducing vibrato in the strings, and emphasizing the distinctive timbres of the woodwinds and brass, Gaudenz brightens Schumann's timbral palette considerably and balances dynamics to make textures more transparent. Beyond this, Gaudenz keeps the tempos fleet and the rhythms spry, and opens up the music to let it breathe. The symphonies are presented in the order they were composed, with the Symphony No. 4 in D minor placed second and the Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, "Rhenish," last, so the sequence reflects Schumann's progress as a symphonist and not the order of publication. (Even so, the 1851 revision of the Symphony No. 4 is performed here, not the original 1841 version, which complicates the chronology for sticklers.) The acoustics of the large Carl Nielsen Hall contribute a spaciousness that enhances the separation of parts, and the multichannel recording captures the orchestra with credible presence. This is an exceptional hybrid SACD presentation, worth comparing with other Schumann sets, which seldom sound as clean or luminous. Highly recommended.

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