Various Artists

Schumann: Orchestral Music

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Celebrating Robert Schumann's 200th birthday, EMI released this four-disc set of the composer's complete, mature orchestral works. To the benefit of listeners, this includes not only the symphonies and other minor works written solely for orchestra, but the three major concertos, as well. Discs 1 and 2 are devoted to the four symphonies, written in a flurry of activity beginning in 1841. All four symphonies are performed by the Staatskapelle Dresden under Wolfgang Sawallisch; recorded in the 1970s and brilliantly remastered, it's enjoyable to have consistency of tone and sound quality across the four. Surprisingly, the sound quality for the concertos, recorded in the 1990s by the Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester under Hans Vonk, is less pristine and precise than the earlier symphony recordings. The timpani, in particular, produce a rather dull and muddling effect. The three soloists -- violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann, cellist Truls Mørk, and pianist Christian Zacharias -- each put forth reliable, technically polished, and musically satisfying performances. While perhaps not as flashy as Kremer, as passionate as du Pré, or as commandingly powerful as Argerich, the concerto performances are still a nice choice for listeners getting their first taste of Schumann. Coupled with the clear, exuberant performances of the symphonies, this four-disc set is a recommended selection for building a comprehensive recording library.

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