Even after pioneering efforts in the Sixties by Leonard Bernstein, who set out to disprove the dusty claim that Schumann's symphonic orchestrations are awkward or even botched, the accusation kept cropping up. Then the authenticity movement helped restore the four symphonies to what Schumann originally intended. Now, by a quirk of taste, Chailly is reverting back to the old days of tampering with the score, not to diss the composer but to let us hear what another genius (and supreme orchestrator), Mahler, had to say.
What one hears immediately is that Mahler thinned out the many doublings of string lines, rendering them leaner and cleaner. In the process he allowed wind solos to emerge more clearly. After hearing a concert featuring the First "Spring" Sym., the NY Times reviewer commented that Mahler makes Schumann sound like early Beethoven. Well, not on this CD, but the opened-up texture is highly noticeable. You'll hear woodwind chords that used to be underwater and less 'fatness' in the orchestra's timbre. Call it Schumann in light of Mendelssohn.
Chailly has suddenly revitalized the dogged old Leipzig Gewandhaus, earning raves everywhere, and quite deservedly. The ensemble is sharp, alive, and constantly grabbing the listener's attention in these electric readings of Sym. 2 and 4, which are the best we've gotten in a decade. If you want to hear Mahelr's Schumann done in sparkling performances, this CD is highly recommended.