Schumann’s Symphonies Nos 2 & 4 conducted by Antonio Pappano

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LABELS: ICA Classics
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 2 & 4
PERFORMER: Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano


These are thoroughly Romantic interpretations of Schumann’s Second and Fourth Symphonies – and certainly none the worse for that. Antonio Pappano’s tempo for the Adagio of No. 2 – the most tragic and yearningly beautiful of all Schumann’s symphonic slow movements – is so slow that the music acquires a positively Brucknerian aspect. It’s a performance that teeters on the edge of self-indulgence without ever falling into it. For the rest, Pappano’s interpretation is fairly traditional. Like almost every other conductor, for instance, he makes a big accelerando at the end of the scherzo – undeniably effective, but not indicated by Schumann. One of the very few to resist the temptation, and to show that the music could also work as written, was Rafael Kubelík.

Pappano moulds the big first movement with unerring judgement, producing an overwhelming climax at its mid-point. It’s a pity, though, that the opening ‘motto’ theme on the brass doesn’t emerge with greater force and clarity when it returns.

The D minor Symphony No. 4 is a more problematic work. Undoubtedly, Schumann’s familiar 1851 revision has many musical subtleties that were lacking in the original version composed a decade earlier – not least, the notion of forging the four movements into a continuous whole – but at the same time its orchestration is undeniably much more opaque. Pappano shapes his interpretation with considerable freedom, making the piece sound like a symphonic fantasia, and the Santa Cecilia orchestra offers fine playing throughout.


Misha Donat