SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Op. 97, “Rhenish Symphony”; Symphony No. 4 in D minor Op. 120 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra /Lawrence Foster – Pentatone

by | Apr 19, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Op. 97, “Rhenish Symphony”; Symphony No. 4 in D minor Op. 120 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra /Lawrence Foster – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC5186327, 65:24 ****: [Distr. by Naxos]

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote his third symphony in 1850 while living in Düsseldorf, where the first performance took place the next year. In five movements, the tempi decrease progressively from the first to fourth before the final, fifth movement harks back to the tempo set in first, and ends the work with triumph and optimism.

The fourth movement, marked feierlich, and in E flat minor, was perhaps inspired by the service in Cologne Cathedral during which Archbishop Geisel was consecrated Cardinal. Here, as throughout the work, Lawrence Foster sets just the right tempo, the brass in particular playing majestically. The orchestra and conductor present an open and warm-hearted reading, with mercifully no underlining and highlighting, which gave me enormous pleasure, partly due to this reading but also to the Czech Philharmonic being on such excellent form.

The Fourth Symhony dates from 1841, the same year as Schumann wrote his First, the Spring. Op.120 is a reworking of that earlier version; whereas the original was in four discrete movements, this version which Schumann described as “Symphonic Fantasy for Large Orchestra” gives the impression of a one movement work as the four run into one another, the first three not really having a firm conclusion.

Foster and his Czech forces produce a lovingly created of this work, the second movement, Romanze, especially so, and the third,  Scherzo, as light as only such a first-class orchestra can create. Indeed, some may feel this reading is just too beautiful!

Recorded live during April 2008, the sound captures the very full acoustic of the Rudolfinum and its long reverberation time, and it is to the engineers’ credit that little detail is lost; this is as different a sound from the LSO Live’s Barbican productions as is possible. The audience is superbly well-behaved and very largely inaudible. This is another very welcome release from PentaTone.

— Peter Joelson

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