The Four Symphonies:
No.1 in B flat, Op.38 (Spring)
No.2 in C, Op.61
No.3 in E flat, Op.97 (Rhenish)
No.4 in D minor, Op.120 [Revised Version]
Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Op.52
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: March 2002
CD No: EMI 5677682 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 29 minutes
Recorded in 1972, Wolfgang Sawallisch’s buoyant, expressive readings of Schumann’s adorable symphonies are now justifiably included in EMI’s “Great Recordings of the Century” series. Sawallisch, like most conductors, plays the Fourth in its 1851 revision. (You can look to Harnoncourt on Teldec for the decade-earlier original.)
Staatskapelle Dresden’s intimacy with this inspired music informs every bar of these timeless renditions, and Sawallisch is a master of Schumann’s Classical/Romantic designs. There’s no finer version of the wonderful Second Symphony in its drive and passion, nor a more light-footed Overture, Scherzo and Finale, a joyous and underrated work.
Sawallisch’s germane balances are captured in the glowing acoustic of Dresden’s Lukaskirche. With warmth and detail ideally entwined, Sawallisch’s subtle control allows Schumann’s flights of fancy to take off.
Schumann’s symphonies have done well in the studio. While there are strong claims from other conductors – Celibidache (Nos. 2 & 3), Dohnanyi, Kubelik (his DG set), Schwarz and Sinopoli – Sawallisch’s tapings have been a top recommendation for thirty years and sound as fresh today as when the original LPs were first auditioned. As a library choice, this is an unbeatable set.