SCHUMANN: 200th Anniversary Tribute = Manfred Overture, Op. 115; Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61; Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120 – NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini/Bruno Walter (Symphony No. 4)
Guild GHCD 2362, 69:22 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Guild openly dedicates three of Robert Schumann’s orchestral works conducted by Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) and Bruno Walter (1876-1962) as a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Schumann’s birth in 1810. The Toscanini C Major Symphony fills a gap left in Walter legacy of Schumann inscriptions, since Walter never committed this work in the recording studio.
The Manfred Overture (10 October 1946) receives a particularly driven account by Toscanini, the syncopations and tricky trumpet work not the least of the bravura elements in this hothouse performance. The Byronic mood having been established, Toscanini envisions the drama as seething bed of inner turmoil, the taut reins on the ensemble not belying the work’s kinship with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and Wagner’s Eine Faust-Overture. The C Major Symphony of the “old school” has had champions in Toscanini, Enescu, Mitropoulos, Szell, and Bernstein. Toscanini (17 March 1946) plays the first movement for its rounded periods in the Bach-like chorale, followed by an aggressive Allegro in double-dotted rhythms whose accents Toscanini virtually pummels into our hearts.
A wicked tempo marks the C Major Scherzo under Toscanini, wherein the cadences literally explode. The two trios alternately scamper about and reminisce on themes that have already passed by and will yet reappear in the finale. The C Minor Adagio well presages exquisite moments in Mahler, and we might wish Toscanini allowed more relaxation in the tempo, but he urges a moderate andante on the tempo, which certainly reduces anything like sentiment and imposes a more martial atmosphere on what Mitropoulos finds bucolically mystical. The last movement maintains the innate ferocity of the vision, the tympani active along with the spirited NBC woodwinds and brass. The moments of repose do not seem entirely natural, since Toscanini insists on those metric undercurrents that keep us on fiery edge. The coda, however, asserts a triumph of the spirit, and the NBC audience quite grants its power.
Bruno Walter leads an 1851 version of the D Minor Symphony (2 March 1940), a darkly-hued incredibly economical score that recycles virtually every component of its melodic contour. Walter, too, rather savors the music’s hectic power, not dawdling–or lingering romantically–over its plastic figures in the way Furwaengler would evoke the mystery from what could be a cosmic drama or merely a visceral expression from Schumann akin to Beethoven C Minor Symphony. The singular verve of Walter’s reading does grant an immense logic and inevitability to the progression as cut from a single cloth in many colors. The A Minor Romanze, appropriately, comes hard on the heels of the last chord in the Allegro di molto, the oboe and solo violin making their appropriate concertante contribution. Strong thrusts mark the D Minor Scherzo, its bass-heavy echo effects in fine fettle. As with Cantelli and Furtwaengler, the transition to the last movement rises luxuriantly to the occasion, rife with portent and majestic calls to arms. Lithe and contrapuntal, the last movement proves transparent and eminently dramatic in turn, the NBC trumpets once again a force to behold.