Schumann: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: 468 543-2 Reissue (1994, 1996)
Riccardo Muti’s generous phrasing, his evident determination to bring out as many accents or dynamic marks as possible may not please some fastidious Schumann-ites. Granted, Muti does occasionally teeter on the edge of exaggeration (and finally falls over it in the crescendo dissonances in the finale of No. 4), but the energy and impassioned momentum of these performances more than compensate. Here is a Schumann with Beethovenian fire in his veins, a symphonist who can sweep the listener forward on the tide of his ideas (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more gripping account of the opening of No. 3), or startle with the force of his imagination – no pussy-footing here. Wolfgang Sawallisch’s much-loved EMI cycle may be more gently poetic in slow movements, but he can also sound sedentary after Muti. This may not be the perfect Schumann cycle, but for anyone with doubts about this unfairly maligned composer’s symphonic credentials it’s required listening. Stephen Johnson