Schumann: Cello Concerto; Symphony No. 4

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Cello Concerto; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Christophe Coin (cello); Orchestre des Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901598
A note on the CD box makes extravagant claims for the revelatory nature of these recordings, and it is true that the rasping sound of hand-stopped horns punching out a repeated rhythmic figure in the development of the D minor Symphony’s opening movement casts new light on the passage in question. Whether the horns should be so prominent as to obscure the main motif in the strings is another matter. The strings are, in fact, a little too recessed throughout this disc, making it difficult to judge how period instruments affect Schumann’s much-maligned orchestral textures.

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Philippe Herreweghe conducts a well thought-out, if perhaps slightly too relaxed, performance of the symphony. Much less successful is the Cello Concerto – another of Schumann’s late essays in symphonic continuity and unity. No one would want to hear this rhapsodic piece played strictly in tempo; but when every single solo cello passage is radically slower than the surrounding material the shape of Schumann’s structure is seriously compromised. A pity, because the orchestral playing itself is of high quality, and the juxtaposition of pieces enterprising. Misha Donat