Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Schumann: The Symphonies

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As Yannick Nézet-Séguin continues to explore the Romantic symphonic repertoire, it becomes increasingly apparent that he has a strong affinity for German composers, something not readily guessed of this Canadian maestro. There might be an underlying connection between his recordings of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, for which he has received considerable attention and acclaim, and this 2014 Deutsche Grammophon album of the four symphonies of Robert Schumann, which shows Nézet-Séguin as a strong advocate for this somewhat discounted symphonist. Like Bruckner, Schumann was not a brilliant composer for the orchestra, which has put both composers at a disadvantage with audiences, and Nézet-Séguin has to do some careful balancing of the sections and dynamics to produce a transparent sound, which is not easy to do, in light of Schumann's frequent doubling of strings and woodwinds. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe responds well to Nézet-Séguin's direction, so Schumann's music is substantially lighter sounding, thanks to the lean sound of the ensemble, as well as to the noticeable care the conductor takes in drawing out distinctive timbres, and not letting the music become too homogenous in color. Of course, the expression is affected by this fresh airing of these symphonies, and as might be expected, the music is lighter, cleaner, quicker, and more exciting, due in part to the streamlining of Schumann's textures. These live recordings were made in Paris in 2012, and while they are a little shallow sounding, details are perfectly clear with the proper volume setting.

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