WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish); Overture, Scherzo and Finale; Genoveva Overture
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/Christian Thielemann
CATALOGUE NO: 459 680-2
This second Schumann disc from Thielemann and the Philharmonia is of interest more for the comparatively rare Overture, Scherzo and Finale dating from the composer’s ‘symphonic’ year of 1842, than for the popular Rhenish Symphony. Thielemann draws glowing playing from the orchestra throughout, with textural clarity achieved by having first and second violins on opposite sides of the spectrum.
The opening Allegro of the 1842 work is particularly well done, but the ‘tripping’ 6/8 rhythm of the Scherzo perhaps needs rather more tension and urgency than it gets here; while in the finale Thielemann’s relaxed style robs the music of its rightful sense of exhilaration. This lack of incisiveness and forward momentum is one that is palpable, too, in the outer movements of the Rhenish. It is true that Schumann wanted the Finale’s opening theme played dolce, but at the same time it needs to sparkle – particularly as it comes after the imposing ‘Cologne Cathedral’ fourth movement.
Rafael Kubelík is a conductor who manages to make the music smile here; and in the opening movement he conveys the uplifting quality that seems to elude Thielemann. Thielemann is, however, impressive in all three central movements: the Ländler-style second movement lingering and affectionate; the intermezzo-like third movement warmly expressive; and the fourth appropriately solemn and mysterious. Ultimately, though, it is difficult not to feel that Kubelík offers the more deeply satisfying performance of this great work. Misha Donat