Schumann: Symphonies Nos 3 & 4
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 3 & 4
PERFORMER: Royal Stockholm Phil/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: Sony 8869 7646872
Sakari’s Oramo’s strongest attribute is his sense of line. His feeling for the long phrase – sometime for a whole movement as a phrase in itself – is the quality that makes him an impressive Sibelian. And, slightly surprisingly, it pays off rather well in Schumann too. True, his Schumann doesn’t have the nervous brilliance and emotional knife-edge ambiguity so splendidly evident in the great Sir John Eliot Gardiner cycle. But just when you’re beginning to wish that Oramo could be a little more edgy, that there could be a little more Romantic pathos, that feeling for the magisterial long line reasserts itself.
In the Third Symphony, the elemental current of the Rhine in the first movement, the sense of austere ritual, and the building in intensity in the fourth movement – all this is very well done. The Fourth Symphony is conceived as a whole, every change in tempo is deftly calculated. It makes a powerful case for the revised version as a structural improvement on the original, rather than a slightly panicky attempt to smooth over the latter’s fascinating paradoxes in the interests of accessibility. Gardiner’s Schumann remains the more complex being, but Oramo’s Rhenish should be strong enough to persuade Schumann-agnostics that he could think in large spans, while the Fourth is genuinely exciting. Stephen Johnson