Schumann: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish); Symphony No. 4

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LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish); Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: London Classical Players/Roger Norrington
CATALOGUE NO: VM 5 61734 2 Reissue (1990)
These performances have much to offer – not least, the lightness and transparency of the Rhenish Symphony’s Ländler-like second movement, and the dramatic sweep of the opening Allegro of No. 4. As so often with Norrington, though, there are times when intellectual rigour seems to take precedence over questions of expressive flexibility. It’s true that Schumann doesn’t indicate any change in tempo for the trio section of the Fourth Symphony’s energetic scherzo, but the passage is one that surely needs more gracefulness and charm than it gets here; and Norrington is again rather severe in the finale of the Rhenish. The latter piece is much more uplifting in the hands of his obvious rival in the period-instrument stakes, John Eliot Gardiner, who also brings a welcome lilt to that trio in the Fourth Symphony. Gardiner is also more successful in conveying the solemnity of the Rhenish Symphony’s famous ‘Cologne Cathedral’ movement. Misha Donat