While perhaps not a great masterpiece, Schumann's late "Scenes from Goethe's 'Faust'" is certainly an interesting addition to the discography of Schumann's works for the 2010 200th anniversary of Schumann's birth. The Overture is not one of Schumann's most effective works, and I believe it was written last, but don't let that put you off, since the actual "scenes" of Part One, derived from the dialogues of Faust and Gretchen, and other related material, are quite attractive, and show Schumann in his best lyric vein, foreshadowing early Wagner. It is for the scenes of Part Two, however, mostly from the very end of the second part of Goethe's great poem, that Schumann provided some of his best late music, rising to an ecstatic level which mirrors Goethe's words and ideas of universal fulfillment through love and forgiveness. This is certainly a question of taste, but I think Schumann sets these words in a more effective and tasteful way than Mahler does in the finale of his 8th Symphony, which, by contrast, may seem to "gild the lilly."
Reviews of this performance (from "BBC Music Magazine," "Grammophone," etc.) have all been very positive,and even though there are other equally excellent, but more expensive, versions of this work, this new version on Naxos is to be welcomed because it allows everyone to hear a work which may open a new, different view of Schumann's musical achievement. Excellent sound and program notes. Texts and translations are available on the Naxos website, making this release even more affordable for all.