Schumann: Symphonies 2 & 4 - Dausgaard
Classical - Orchestral
Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C major Op. 61, Overture to "Scenes from Goethe’s Faust", Julius Caesar, overture Op. 128, Symphony No. 4 in D minor Op. 120 (original version)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard (conductor)
The dynamic collaboration between conductor Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra has been developing for 10 years and is increasingly recognized as one of the more interesting in the world of classical music. From the outset, Dausgaard and the SCO have been intent on exploring the outer limits of the chamber orchestra repertoire, and this disc - the first in a series entitled Opening Doors - is the fruit of these explorations. Schumann's symphonies were first programmed at the orchestra's Schumann festival in 1999, and have since become part of the repertoire that the SCO play on their international tours - to the BBC Proms, New York and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, to name but a few destinations. They will provide the backbone of the series, with additional repertoire by Dvořák and Schubert to follow. In the liner notes to the present disc, Dausgaard explains that he wants to ‘open the doors into the possibility of hearing this music in a different way’ and tells of how his work with the SCO has helped him gain new insight into the music, even when conducting it with larger symphony orchestras.
The disc opens with the Second Symphony, described by Dausgaard as dominated by 'swings of mood: from being on top of the world to a sense of disintegration into the very heart of darkness.' It is coupled with Symphony No. 4, in the original version which was actually composed before No. 2. Dausgaard feels that this version, especially when played by a chamber orchestra, allows the musical substance to truly come to the fore: 'It was a revelation when we performed it for the first time.' Also including two rarely played overtures, which to Dausgaard communicate 'a sense of imminent disintegration – as though the heart is about to stop beating', this disc will no doubt prove a revelation to many others as well.
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Review by Mark Novak - January 31, 2007
Be aware: these works are performed by a CHAMBER ORCHESTRA and so they will sound different than what most are used to. In fact, the overall impact of this recording is closer to the old 2-CD set by the Hannover Band (on period instruments) than to any of the modern, large orchestra recordings out there. The main difference here is that the Swedish players use modern instruments and the resulting sound is a bit more mellow and less tangy than the Hannover sound. Also, the Bis recording is a bit farther back in perspective than the RCA RBCD though both are very good recordings sound-wise. If you are allergic to period performances but want the perspective that a small orchestra can bring to these works, then the Bis is an excellent choice. The small ensemble gives the brass and winds more prominance in the mix compared to most large orchestra recordings where the strings can be dominant. I find the overall sound to be a bit distant for the Bis - I would have preferred a more close-up perspetive of this smaller ensemble.
Regarding the performances themselves, Dausgaard gives very lively performances. In fact, as far as tempos are concerned, they are quite close to Goodman's Hannover Band for the Syms 2 & 4 (both present the original version of Sym 4, BTW). The fast movements race along in an exhilarating fashion. The orchestra playes very well throughout. I also have the Szell/Cleveland SACD's and the Barenboim/Berlin RBCD's of the Schumann Syms. I listened to the Scherzo (2nd) mvmt of all four of these recordings of the 2nd Sym for comparison purposes. As expected the smaller ensembles (Goodman & Dausgaard)are the fleetest in this mvmt but Szell is not far behind! For a 49 year-old recording, the Szell is remarkable to listen to in SACD (stereo) but I do think the modern resordings have an advantage. It is a close-up orchestra perspective but captures Szell's wonderful peformances nicley. The Barenboim is also a very good performance and recording.
My overall peformance ranking (favorite first) would be: Szell, Dausgaard, Goodman, Barenboim
Sonically, my ranking is: Barenboim, Goodman, Dausgaard, Szell
Copyright © 2007 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net