Now that the team of conductor Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra have completed a survey of the symphonies and major orchestral works of Robert Schumann, it can safely be declared a thorough-going success. Indeed, it might persuasively be argued that Dausgaard's cycle should take its place beside the greatest sets of Schumann's orchestral works ever recorded: Klemperer's, Sawallisch's, and Szell's. That claim may at first seem bold; after all, Dausgaard is a young, nearly unknown Scandinavian conductor without the experience and reputation of Klemperer, Sawallisch, and Szell, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra is truly a chamber orchestra and thus without the weight and mass of a modern orchestra.
And yet these are startling, even revelatory performances of Schumann's Third and Fourth symphonies. Dausgaard has a virtuoso technique and complete command of the orchestra, plus what sounds like a passionate attachment to Schumann's music. The Swedish musicians respond with astonishing power -- their strings are searing and their brass blistering, and their timpani bludgeoning -- but also amazing poetry -- the inner movements of the Third are particularly beautiful, especially the woodwinds. Together, they create performances that move in a straight line from start to finish, savoring every emotion, relishing every climax, and triumphing in codas with a joyous ecstasy that recalls Furtwängler. Coupled here with an intensely dramatic account of the familiar overture to Manfred and a wryly entertaining reading of the nearly unknown overture to the opera Hermann und Dorothea, this disc can take its place with the previous two volumes as the digital Schumann cycle. As in previous volumes, BIS' super audio sound is spectacularly realistic.