Lawrence Foster

Schumann: Symphonies 3 & 4

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Modern concertgoers can sometimes find the symphonies of Robert Schumann a bit difficult to digest. It is not entirely hard to imagine why. His scoring can be quite dense, and even more so than Brahms at times, and his cyclical ideas can be lost in the vast complexity of his symphonies as a whole. With the right performance, however, Schumann's symphonies can be invigorating, moving musical experiences that can leave listeners wishing these symphonies were performed more often. This album by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Lawrence Foster containing the Third and Fourth symphonies is not one of those performances. Foster's tempo selections throughout the Third Symphony are intolerably stodgy, even when the composer clearly calls for a more forward-moving, sprightly approach. Foster allows far too much sloppy playing to get by; intonation in the strings is frequently problematic. Articulation is all over the place, and when Foster finally does get the tempo moving, it often sounds like 100 or so musicians all doing their own thing. Although these are big problems, they are by no means the biggest. That honor falls to PentaTone Classics' insufferably muddy, indistinct sound quality. Full orchestra tuttis are a wash of sound in which only the occasional trumpet or flute manages to penetrate. Despite the numerous successes of both this conductor and this orchestra, they do not appear to be a good match for one another, and this album is one to skip.

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