01 SchumannSchumann at Pier 2 – The Symphonies
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen; Paavo Järvi
Cmajor 712004

At last; an exultation of Schumann (my favourite composer) that finally and decisively disproves the myth that he was an inept orchestrator. Järvi’s brilliant, no-holds-barred performances are realizations of Schumann’s four symphonies without any editing and “corrections” by others (including Mahler) to suit their taste, an accepted practice that has tainted performances for generations. These indispensible performances radiate from the inside… exciting, highly charged and, where called for, meltingly poetic. Textures are sinewy but never lean. Audio and video are state of the art. 

In addition to four definitive performances there is an appreciation of these original scores. Movement by movement, we are treated to extracts from the rehearsals with observations and illustrations from some of the players but most informative and enlightening are Jarvi’s discerning thoughts and annotations:

“If you only use your brain to dictate the choices you will never actually get to the bottom of what Schumann’s music is all about because the music comes from the heart. It is incredibly emotional. You have this sense of neurotic extreme and you have to allow yourself to feel it in performance otherwise it will not fly, it will not explode, it will not make you cry… One of the problems is that we need to have enough courage to actually go with what Schumann writes because sometimes one thinks that, wait a minute, it cannot possibly be that impulsive, it cannot be so neurotic, it cannot possibly be so, um, extreme… I don’t think that I know of any other composer, even from the same period that brings that type of energy and that type of extreme into music… and that is something that all the great old maestros tried to fix. They tried to make it more academic, closer to Brahms, more correct. All the corners that were a little too sharp they tried to make smoother and what we end up with is a sort of a smooth correct, improved – quote, unquote – version of Schumann that takes away the essence which is the incredible neurotic energy… with all the insecurities and all the doubts, you know that Schumann knew, somehow, that he was one of the great voices.

“After performing the whole cycle of Schumann symphonies, you come away from that experience knowing that everything that you have been taught in school in the beginning is just nonsense. Basically, Schumann’s symphonic music is truly great. If one goes into it with complete commitment and one has courage to forget a little bit about so-called tradition and really see what’s in the music, you realize that this is absolutely stunningly original, touching and emotionally powerful music.”

The proof is here to be heard.


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