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5.0 out of 5 stars Big Jim - Home on the Range, 27 Sep 2013
This review is from: Schumann: Symphonies 1 & 4 / Manfred Overture (Audio CD)
Again, Big Jim is not the most photogenic guy on the planet; this cover is gruesome even by his standards. Whenever he's in this mode - eat, grind, devour - even the Cookie Monster has reason to be wary.

Much like its twin, this disc is a delight. It affords an opportunity to hear a Master in Schumann, accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic at its zenith. You would not want to play this recording on a day of Total Fire Ban: music-making of this calibre is incendiary. Listen to the unanimity of attack in the third movement of the D Minor: this is an ultimate statement. The great transition passage that follows thereafter - blessed be Clara for evoking such inspiration - threatens to burn a hole in the floor. The vernal pith of the Spring Symphony is encompassed with aplomb.

I read SFL's review before listening to this disc. I disagree respectfully re the finale of the Spring: a tad on the slow side it might be but dead it ain't. I concur elsewhere: the opening of the D Minor is less minatory than others; as Levine is not laying his cards on the table at once, all well and good.

If there is a (slight) problem here, I'd nominate the opening bars of the Manfred Overture: they're jerky and breathless.

As this was a download on my part, I'd love to know where this cycle was recorded. To my ears, the acoustic is too aerated to be the Philharmonie. Could the Jesus Christus Church be in play?

On the basis of this cycle and Levine's stellar recording of Mozart: Kronungsmesse Mass in C Major; Haydn: Missa in Tempore Belli, what a pity that the Conclave of 1989 failed to empurple Big Jim. In contrast to the victor, no-one could doubt his credentials as an orchestral trainer. Levine clearly had better regard for the Klang of yore than the vampiric figure who nested in the Philharmonie for the better part of a decade: Count Claudio Abbado the Impaler (and what a bloodless account of Schumann's Second he has just unleashed upon the world, bolstered (no less) by the Orchestra Mozart).

At least we have these recordings to remind us of the glory of old, lest darkness and fangs come upon us.
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