Dirk Joeres / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Schumann: Symphony No. 3; Overture, Scherzo & Finale; Symphonic Studies

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There have been dozens of recordings of Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony over the years and most listeners will already have their favorites -- perhaps Szell and the Cleveland's high-powered performance, perhaps Karajan's super suave performance, perhaps Sawallisch and the Dresden's gracefully formal performance, perhaps Walter and the New York's sweetly singing performance. So why would a listener feel inclined to try this recording by Dirk Joeres and the Royal Philharmonic? Possibly because Joeres' conducting is skillful and his interpretation is lyrical? Possibly because the Royal Philharmonic's playing is warm toned and its interpretation is elegant? Maybe yes, maybe no: all of these qualities have been made manifest in earlier recordings. Possibly because the symphony is coupled with a fine performance of the Overture, Scherzo, and Finale, and Schumann's relatively rarely recorded symphony without a slow movement? Maybe yes, maybe no: there have been better recordings of the work -- one thinks immediately of Solti and the Vienna's rip-roaring performance.

So why would a longtime listener try this disc? To hear the world-premiere recording of the Adagio and Finale from Schumann's Symphonic Etudes for piano orchestrated by Tchaikovsky? Maybe yes, maybe no: the Russian composer's work is a student exercise in orchestration, and while it is quite accomplished for what it is, what it is tells us nothing about the music we didn't already know -- does a solo flute really add anything to the Adagio? do drums and cymbals really add anything to the Finale? -- and tells us nothing about Tchaikovsky we didn't already know -- that he favored woodwinds for solos, and drums and cymbals at climaxes were not unsuspected by those who know the composer's own works. In short, then, this is a disc for listeners who have an uncontrollable need to hear every recording of the "Rhenish" ever made or every work Tchaikovsky ever put his hand to.

Although recorded at three different times in three different locations -- the Symphony in 1999, the Overture in 1995, and the Adagio and Finale in 2003 -- the sound here is remarkably consistent and remarkably cool, clear, and colorful.

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