on 2 June 2013
As someone who enjoys "authentic instrument" performances, it's always interesting to hear how modern conductors/orchestras perform and interpret the classics! Mind you, these days it tends to be as much about the recording quality too and quite rightly so, if spending a pretty penny or two for the right one. I already own other complete recordings of these works, but I was in the mood for another Schumann version so I first went for Zinman's and then curiously opted for Barenboim's!
I decided to purchase both recordings after reading the conflicting reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Zinman's got glowing reviews but Barenboim's didn't and so I put them to the test and I had a listen - then another, then another, etc. I should say the Zinman was a bargain at under £5 for two discs and I was fortunate enough to find Barenboim's like new for just under £8, which wasn't bad at all! Anyway, I can see why the critics enjoyed the lean, fleet, authentic style and authentic brass - they use old instruments to give it that feel - performances of the Tonhalle Orchestra, but after repeated listening it suddenly became apparent that everything felt tooooo rushed without allowing any of the movements time to breathe or fully develop - had Zinman a tight recording schedule? Where was the "punch" one might expect in the first movement of the Rhenish too? The recording quality is first class, but it all lacks something and I still feel the same way now! So what about Barenboim's? Firstly, I agree with one reviewer - I think this must be among one of Teldec's top recording quality releases for the balance and detail is superb. The Staatskapelle Berlin is outstanding with the wonderful brass, woodwind and timpani really hitting the mark, though the strings are lovely too! Tempi? It takes a few repeated listening's to get a feel for what Barenboim's doing, but I then found myself totally warming to these interpretations as he allows the music to flow and breathe - Schumann's score is more easily heard as a result. There's nothing "mediocre" symphonically about these wonderful works as this stunning orchestra and Barenboim proves!! Other recordings I own include Gardiner's and Goodman's authentic ones, Bernstein's fine New York Philharmonic version and Oramo's superb account with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. However, don't be scared to give Barenboim's a go - stick with it and you may be pleasantly surprised :-)