Symphony No. 1 ‘Spring’; Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’
Cappella Aquileia/Marcus Bosch
Coviello COV 92015 (CD/SACD) 58:11 mins
It should no longer be a surprise when a ‘historically informed’ performance of one of Schumann’s symphonies reveals that his orchestral sense was a lot more focused than received opinion would have us believe. It isn’t just the clarity and freshness that stand out, particularly in the Rhenish (the more maligned of the two symphonies recorded here). It’s the fact that the sound has so many layers of light and texture – at times like looking into moving water or through the shifting foliage of a forest. It’s good, too, that the recording is so sympathetic to this aspect of these performances. Yes, there were moments when I wished for a little more of the kind of expressive rubato we now associate inescapably with Schumann’s solo piano works. But would Schumann have expected anything like that in orchestral music?
More to the point, the playing of Cappella Aquileia under Marcus Bosch is so finely featured, and radiates such warm conviction on its own terms, that more expansive, later-Romantic indulgence might deprive it of some of its outstanding virtues. The outer movements of the Rhenish are very exciting, but it’s actually the middle movements – the energetic rowing song of II, the watery pastoral of III and the romantic-gothic polyphony of IV – that left the strongest impression.
The Spring has a wonderful youthful upbeat quality. It’s here in particular that Schumann’s quirky, lateral game-playing (another grievously misunderstood aspect of his symphonic thinking) comes across with delightful directness.