Robin Ticciati / Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Robert Schumann: The Symphonies

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Several recordings of Robert Schumann's symphonies have appeared with string section sizes in the mid-30s, which is thought to represent the forces that originally played the works. Each has had something to contribute, and it seems that musicians are finally starting to get these difficult works -- not Beethoven, but not Brahms either -- under control. This one by British conductor Robin Ticciati leading the underrated Scottish Chamber Orchestra, is among the best. Ticciati opts for transparency over power, although finales get vigor and depth where needed, and the result is performances that reveal the depth of Schumann's contrapuntal thinking, with many unexpected details in the inner voices. The Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120, is performed in its 1851 revision, which has historically been troublesome in itself. Ticciati makes a good case that the greater density in the later version makes motivic sense, and his reading works well with the idea that the late Schumann was the music that most impressed the young Brahms. Best of all, the details do not obscure the sweep that these symphonies have in the best big-orchestra performances of yore. With ideal clarity in Linn's engineering work in the UK's Perth Concert Hall, this is must-own for any Schumann shelf or hard drive partition (the CD release comes with a card good for a free download).

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