Schumann: Symphonies 3 & 4 - Dausgaard
Classical - Orchestral
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Op. 97 "Rhenish"
Symphony No. 4 in D minor Op. 120
Manfred - Overture Op. 115
Hermann and Dorothea - Overture Op. 136
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard (conductor)
For some years, Thomas Dausgaard and his Swedish Chamber Orchestra have been developing their project ‘Opening Doors’, performing symphonies and other orchestral works from the Romantic era with the smaller-than-usual forces of a modern-day chamber orchestra. It has been possible to sample the results of this approach in various music centres around the world during the team’s extensive tours, as well as on disc. The present disc is the fourth of their Opening Doors recordings and at the same time the closing disc of a ‘series within a series’ – a triptych featuring Schumann’s complete symphonies. Previous instalments have been praised for the freshness of the interpretations. ‘A brilliant recording, which overturns common and oft-repeated judgements regarding Schumann the symphonist’ was the reaction of the reviewer on German website Klassik Heute, while the review of the second disc in International Record Review included the following prediction: ‘If the final disc maintains such excellence, this could well be the Schumann cycle to have.’
Here now is that final Schumann disc, which includes the ‘Rhenish’ Symphony (No.3) as well the fourth symphony in its final 1851 version. (The original version was actually composed in 1841 as the composer’s second work in the genre, and is included on BIS-SACD-1519.) Besides the two symphonic works this generously filled disc also includes two shorter pieces. The Manfred overture opens Schumann’s music to Byron’s dramatic poem: regarded by Clara Schumann as ‘one of the most poetic and most gripping of Robert’s pieces’, it is the only part of the extensive score that is regularly performed. In the case of Hermann und Dorothea, it was a work by Goethe that provided the inspiration. Originally conceived as an opera about two lovers in the confusion after the French Revolution, it was in the end reduced to a concert overture, which prominently features the Marseillaise.
Recorded in October 2006 (Manfred); in May 2007 (Symphony No.3); in May and in August 2007 (Symphony No. 4); in August 2007 (Hermann und Dorothea) at the Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden, 24/44.1
Recording producer: Jens Braun (Take5 Music Production) (Symphonies, Hermann und Dorothea), Marion Schwebel (Take5 Music Production) (Manfred)
Sound engineer: Thore Brinkmann (Take5 Music Production) (Symphonies, Hermann und Dorothea), Martin Nagorni (Manfred)
Digital editing: Elisabeth Kemper (Symphonies, Hermann und Dorothea), Piotr Furmanczyk (Manfred)
Recording equipment: Neumann microphones; Stagetec Truematch microphone preamplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Yamaha 02R96 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation (for SACD); B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by John Broggio - February 22, 2010
A phenomenal conclusion to this excellent cycle.
Compared to Schumann: Symphonies 3 & 4 - Foster, this is a breath of fresh air and wonderfully dramatic. By using a chamber orchestra, Dausgaard is not only able to reveal details easily but he is able to do this at speeds that would be quite impossible with most full-size symphony orchestras. To illustrate how much faster his tempo choices are, the Foster accounts of the symphonys come in a full 9 minutes slower than here (and Dausgaard omits no repeats). Only in one movement, the Feierlich of the 3rd symphony, does one feel that perhaps it is a little too quick but the doubt is marginal and placed in context of the whole sweep of the performance works well indeed.
The attention given to accents and dynamics and the dialogue within the orchestra (aided by split violins) is exemplary and recalls the astonishment that I felt when hearing Beethoven played like this for the first time. In accounts like these and with such glorious playing, Mahler's assertion for the need to re-orchestrate looks very foolish indeed. Added to these marvellously well played symphonies are two overtures - both very deserving of being better known and given suitably accomplished performances. The longer is that to Manfred and is arguably the finer work - it is more overtly dramatic and has a powerful undercurrent surging beneath the surface.
The sound is fully up to the best of the house sound and should disappoint no-one. Clarity, smoothness and air sum up the attributes best and could easily pass as a demonstration disc for the artists, label or indeed the type of music making itself.
Highly recommended along with the other 2 discs; a compulsory purchase for all Schumann fans.
Copyright © 2010 John Broggio and HRAudio.net
Review by Mark Novak - March 16, 2010
If you are accustommed to the typical string-laden performances by modern orchestras with 80+ players, these performances will be an ear-opener. Here, around 38 players deliver uptempo renditions of Schumann's symphonies with an almost unbelievable precision on modern instruments at modern pitch. Kudos to Thomas Dausgaard for the remarkable orchestral discipline on display here. That said, this is certainly not the first time this has been done. I have long enjoyed the Hannover Band's versions of all the symphonies on RBCD led by Roy Goodman which are similarly fleet but performed in an HIP style (I confess that tempos are so fast in Dausgarrd's performances that it is hard to tell how much vibrato the string players are using; the main difference between Dausgaard and Goodman is in the brass playing which is a bit more brash and wild-sounding on the Goodman set with original instruments). The overall impressions from both of these sets are similar - orchestration becomes clearer and the resulting textures showcase the winds and brass to a greater degree than one would hear in traditional, large-orchestra performances.
The vastly different aural perspective of these performances make comparisons with traditional versions difficult. Its almost like hearing completely different works. Szell's performances of the symphonies (which are/were available on SACD) have long been considered a standard. They are indeed very good and Szell's conducting de-emphasises any weaknesses in the orchestration. I've also enjoyed Barenboim's big-boned readings on RBCD which are very different from Szell's and more in the Furtwangler tradition. All of these (and many others no doubt) have a place in the performance canon of Schumann's symphonies. I will happily return to Dausgaard when I need that extra lift and excitement.
It's amazing to me how much sound these 38 players produce. Much of that must go to the BIS sound engineers: Thore Brinkmann (all but Manfred) and Martin Nagorni. These were recorded in the Orebro Concert Hall in Sweden as were the others in this Schumann series and the resulting sonics are extremely fine. I note on the releaes of symphonies 2&4 that there seemed to be a little too much hall sound in the mix but here that doesn't seem to be the case. There is a lack of low end bloom and fullness which I chalk up to the few number of low pitch instruments used rather than any debit in the recording technique. The two overtures (which are a nice addition but pale in comparison to the brilliance of the symphonies) bring the total timing of this SACD to 76:30 - very generous. Music lovers (and sound lovers) are very fortunate to have BIS delivering such excellent products to us. Highly recommended!
Copyright © 2010 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net