Symphony No.1 in B flat, Op.38 (Spring)
Symphony No.2 in C, Op.61
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded in September 2008 & September 2009 in Stockholm Concert Hall
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: June 2010
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL 88697437072
Duration: 71 minutes
This first of a pair of discs that will find Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic giving us Robert Schumann’s four adorable symphonies (but which version of the Fourth, I wonder?) is lively, insightful, considered and heroic. Oramo leads exhilarating and finely honed performances, the Stockholm musicians responding with deft and sensitive playing in live performances that would pass for expertly produced studio sessions. But perhaps the tingle that these accounts could only come from concerts
In the ‘Spring’ Symphony, Oramo ensures that Schumann sings and dances, and the slow movement – here flowing – can be heard as intense paean to love, the centrepiece of a ripe and joyous performance that is well-judged in pacing and ear-tickling in terms of detailing and dynamics.
Another convincing aspect (of both these accounts) is the clarity of Schumann’s scoring. Without recourse to Mahler’s re-orchestrations (however interesting they are), and contrary to claims made by previous generation of conductors, Oramo makes it quite clear (literally) from these performances, which in terms of open sound and immediacy are superbly recorded (the importance of antiphonal violins in this music explicitly revealed), that Schumann knew exactly how to write for orchestra.
In the Second Symphony – one of the glories of nineteenth-century symphonism – Oramo again convinces with his tempos, not least in the slow introduction, which can drag but does not do so here. In a reading notable for fire and poise, and once again with great concern for the finer points of the score, Oramo finds the music’s direction, charge and its heroism, and in that wonderful slow movement a profound expression. The finale and its timpani-crowned coda is a true apotheosis.
In short, these are two very impressive and enlightening performances (stiff competition for Wolfgang Sawallisch’s outstanding Dresden versions for EMI). Oramo’s second release is keenly awaited.