Schumann: Symphonies Nos 1-4

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Linn
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann: Symphonies Nos 1-4
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1-4
PERFORMER: Scottish Chamber Orchestra/ Robin Ticciati

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The first thing to be said about this Schumann cycle is how splendidly alert the orchestral playing is: the Scottish Chamber Orchestra must be one of the finest ensembles of its kind in the world today. Its principal conductor, Robin Ticciati, is very much on his toes, too, paying meticulous attention to detail throughout. The Adagio of Symphony No. 2, that most achingly nostalgic of all Schumann’s symphonic slow movements, is beautifully done, with a coda that really tugs at the heartstrings; and the famous ‘Cologne Cathedral’ movement from the Rhenish Symphony No. 3 is impressive. I like the way, too, that Ticciati pays heed to Schumann’s dolce marking at the start of the Rhenish Symphony’s lively finale through the warmth of tone he coaxes from the SCO players.

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The performances are not, however, without their controversial moments. The first trio section in the scherzo of the Spring Symphony No. 1 is slower than Schumann intended (the marking is Molto più vivace, but here it sounds less lively than the scherzo itself); while, conversely, the second trio is on the quick side. And Ticciati handles the slow movement of the same work in a lingering fashion that hinders the melody from flowing quite as naturally as it should, while the ‘Romance’ second movement from the D minor Fourth Symphony is again dangerously slow. All the same, no one could accuse the interpretations of being short on personality, and they will reward repeated hearing. Misha Donat