ROBERT SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120; Waldszenen, Op. 82 – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult/Wilhelm Backhaus, piano – HDTT CD-R

by | Dec 24, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

ROBERT SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120; Waldszenen, Op. 82 – London Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult/Wilhelm Backhaus, piano

HDTT HDCD156 (also available as HQCD and as DVD-R), 60:08 ****

Two exemplary Schumann readings, each taken from vintage performances on 4-track tapes, the Symphony No. 4 from Westminster, the Waldszenen from London Decca. Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983) makes a direct, linear appeal in his ravishing performance of the Schumann D Minor Symphony, played as by “the British Toscanini.” Long, virile lines, sharp attacks, and a firm, metrical pulsation carry the internal weight of this symphony, which proves astonishingly through-composed anyway. Every motif conveys a gesture Schumann will exploit in another form, a la Beethoven’s Fifth. The sonority of the London players–likely the London Philharmonic Orchestra sans credit–bristles with excitement, especially in the flute and horn parts. No pause between the first movement and ensuing Romanze, just as the composer intends. If the performance has not the breadth and Romantic metaphysics of the Furtwaengler versions–especially with the Berlin Philharmonic–Boult still manages a sinewy, thoroughly clear and dramatic, whiplash account, easily comparable to Cantelli’s own work in London, with the Philharmonia.

As I recall, the Forest Scenes of Schumann with the eminent pianist Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969) made the “B” side of the Schumann Concerto LP, with Backhaus and Gunter Wand. Always brilliant and intelligently classical, Backhaus in his older age allowed the music of his choice to breathe more freely under his otherwise obsessive grip. Tender plaints, a serene leisure open Eintritt, our child’s hesitation upon entering the primeval wood. Innigkeit and expressive polish combine for Verrufene Stelle–a moment of Schumann polyphony–while the Florestan in Backhaus’ own personality rings forth in Jaeger und der Lauer and the virile Jaglied. The mysteries of Schumann initiation haunt Herberge and the eternal Prophet Bird. For Eusebius’ contribution, we have a lovely Einsame Blumen in rounded figures, a compassionate maerchen. An audiophile’s delight for the Schumann connoisseur.

-Gary Lemco

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