Schumann’s symphonies have long been underrated. The idea of “Schumann cannot compose for orchestra” has been going around in musicology circles for many years.
I really disagree. OK, he’s no Beethoven or Brahms, but I still really like his symphonies, especially no. 3 and 4.
To be fair, there are excellent recordings already out there, e.g. from Gardiner, Nezét-Séguin, or, a bit more unorthodox, Thomas Dausgaard, (mentioned in My 25 Essential Classical Albums).
Rattle is now on his way out from the Berlin Philharmonic, with Kirill Petrenko coming.
I’ve not always been a fan of Rattle’s work at the BPO, but he has left some very good recordings, so I was very interested when I recently rediscovered this 2014 cycle which launched BPO’s own label (I had missed it at the time).
Schumann: The Symphonies – Simon Rattle – Berliner Philharmoniker (BPO Recordings 2014)
So, what do we get? Overall, a very convincing package. I really enjoy every single symphony on this box. My favorite is actually no. 1, subtitled “spring”; where Rattle takes a very fresh and precise approach.
Potentially the weakest of the 4 is symphony no. 2, which I found slightly incoherent in certain parts. The “Rhenish” (my other favorite), and no. 4 both are presented in a way that combines on one hand a good view of the big picture, but really looks at many exciting details.
Overall, Rattle was clearly influenced by the historically informed movement, and the BPO doesn’t sound like during the Karajan era any more. Everything is much lighter and transparent.
A really enjoyable set.
My rating: 4 stars
You can find it here (Qobuz)