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on 27 November 2012
Paavo Järvi and his Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen have set an exalted benchmark for the art of today's Beethoven interpretation with their recordings of the nine symphonies in 2010. Now they are back on DVD, this time in perfect audio and video on Blu-ray, with a recording of the four Schumann symphonies that includes a 98-minute concert film, "Schumann at Pier 2". The Blu-ray disk has an amazing total running time of 271 minutes, with a 27-minute lightweight bonus on the "making" of the Schumann project and some touristy stuff on the city-state of Bremen thrown in. Those of us familiar with Järvi's Beethoven project have been impatiently looking forward to the Schumann recordings with high hopes, and the finished product exceeds all expectations indeed. This is Schumann like you never heard him before. The recording venue (no date given), a former dock warehouse and now a "popular" events center in Bremerhaven, is nicely done up, lighting is fairly discreet (better than in the Beethoven project), the acoustics are very acceptable, and the camera work is excellent - as opposed to the somewhat choppy and hectic filming of the Beethoven symphonies.

But the truth is in the music. The Kammerphilharmonie musicians are a group of virtuoso soloists second to no other orchestra on earth: their contributions, as individuals, groups, or in full force, are simply superb. The orchestra's size (ca. 50 musicians) might be a close match to what Schumann had at his disposal, the sound is highly transparent (you can literally hear every voice) but at the same time quite powerful in the tutti passages. The playing fully vindicates Schumann's proverbially and wrongly maligned orchestration and brings out its romantic beauty. Gone is all the murk and the lard so often present in "traditional" big-band Schumann interpretations: everything is clear, every note shines out, nothing is lost or buried under doubled strings and woodwinds. This sound purification is a true archeological triumph. Järvi's conception of the symphonies is both tender and passionate: every nuance is given true weight, the abrupt transitions from serene to frantic passages within the same movement are handled brilliantly, and the cohesion of the whole work is always present. In the film's interviews, Järvi talks about the "neurotic" elements of the music - glossed over by most interpretations - which are highlighted here for the first time in the long and checkered history of Schumann readings. Tempi are neither excessively fast nor slow overall, they are just right, even when the "presto" in the Fourth's finale is brought home with breakneck speed.

The First is elegant and festive: a romantic homage to spring and a celebration of the composer's own youthful leap into the symphonic genre. In stark contrast stands the multilayered Second with its sharp edges, its moments of darkness and anxiety but also its incredibly moving tenderness. The "Rhenish" Third is presented with all its colorful atmospheric splendor and pomp: note the beautiful brass playing, especially in the chorale. There are touches of spirituality here, but also a dance-like lightness very well captured. In the Fourth (actually the second symphony) we can see the composer's growth from the rarely heard original version ("Leinsdorf in Rehearsal", 1982, has it on DVD) to his final thoughts. Järvi and his Bremer musicians give it the most dramatic performance I have ever heard. All together, this set of the symphonies stands by itself: it towers above more "conventional" readings and is fully in tune with the spirit of every note and the symphonic cosmos it comprises as a whole. Don't miss it!

The concert film is very well done. Individual musicians play particularly significant passages and share their thoughts eloquently, and excerpts from the rehearsals are interspersed. I treasure most Paavo Järvi's introductions to the symphonies and his - in part touchingly personal - reflections. Here is a proud and reserved musician of the highest standard revealing his deeper connections with this music obviously close to his heart. A wonderful experience.
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This set of the four symphonies was made in 2012 with the view of presenting Schumann in a new light as a result of deep and penetrating discussion and rehearsal. The orchestra chosen for this project is a chamber orchestra made up of musicians who value their own solo careers. The orchestra is self-governing and is used to having considerable input to their performances. In this way they form a collaboration with their conductors. This has certain similarities with Abbado's relationship with the Lucerne festival orchestra for example. The orchestra itself is about 50 strong and thus is of an appropriate size for Schumann. This is a modern chamber orchestra and there is no attempt to reproduce the sound world attempted by the 'authentic' movement such as with the Gardiner CD set for example.

There are a number of bonus films included with this set and these set out to enlarge on this approach to Schumann and the use of the venue etc. To do this there is an emphasis placed upon the views of Jarvi and individual orchestral members who illustrate their points with musical extracts. A clear attempt is made to relate all of this with the character of Schumann, a complete Romantic figure within music and beyond. There is also an interesting feature on Bremen as an industrial and cultural centre.

The performances of the music are expertly done with all of this in mind. The playing style is very disciplined with crisp enunciation, sharply underlined accents and tempo changes and a general clarification of textures. There is no evidence of the thick scoring that Schumann used to be criticised for in the past. This would also be true, not only of either Gardiner or Goodman with their authentic orchestras, but also of perceptive conductors with modern orchestras. Even Szell with his larger modern orchestra kept textures clean and tempi lively.

So in these performances we get a very good set of performances presented in a way that many will already be familiar with. The 'newness' is not really a revelation to those used to the Gardiner set which I would suggest is obligatory listening for any student of the Schumann sound. The first symphony is lively and light on its feet as is appropriate to the chosen subject. The second symphony is correctly darker with the most dramatic approach of the four. This is also appropriate. I personally think this has the edge over the similarly sized and engaging performance by Ashkenazy and included as part of a standard orchestral concert.

The third is a fine performance, again fairly sprightly but also with sonorous moments as in the trombone choral episodes. The horns are also rightly more highlighted in the symphony. I prefer this to the Harding one seen as part of an 'Homage' concert to Schumann. The fourth symphony is also light on its feet and is heard here in its much revised and familiar later version. This is a very successful performance and brings the set to a rousing conclusion. I personally find this a far more involving experience than that in the Chailly concert which includes an excellent concerto with Argerich as its highlight.

The sound is full ranging and presented in very clear DTS 5.1 and stereo. The camera work and imaging is engaging and offers tremendously clear detail.

Overall I found this a very engaging set which contains the most individually satisfying performances of all four symphonies so far available on video disc. The alternatives all come within mixed concerts so there is no actual comparison possible of a single disc collection of all four works. There are very good CD alternatives which should not be forgotten, notably those by Gardiner and Szell. These do not have imaging but have more music, good sound (excellent in the case of Gardiner) and fine performances of character. The Gardiner performance in particular gives an even greater insight into Schumann's sound world as it uses a highly experienced and top quality 'period' orchestra.

I would suggest therefore that this very generously filled disc is of excellent quality and value and will be a hard act to follow, let alone beat within its chosen formats. I would therefore suggest that it will give a great deal of satisfaction to a great number of purchasers. For that reason a 5 star assessment seems completely reasonable for what is likely to be a very attractive proposition for anyone interested in a specifically visual program. However for those particularly interested in the period aspects of the sound in any format I would suggest that the Gardiner version on CD is far more illuminating and includes far more music, especially the fine but rarely played Konzertstuck for four horns and all in splendidly vivid sound.
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This set of the four symphonies was made in 2012 with the view of presenting Schumann in a new light as a result of deep and penetrating discussion and rehearsal. The orchestra chosen for this project is a chamber orchestra made up of musicians who value their own solo careers. The orchestra is self-governing and is used to having considerable input to their performances. In this way they form a collaboration with their conductors. This has certain similarities with Abbado's relationship with the Lucerne festival orchestra for example. The orchestra itself is about 50 strong and thus is of an appropriate size for Schumann. This is a modern chamber orchestra and there is no attempt to reproduce the sound world attempted by the 'authentic' movement such as with the Gardiner CD set for example.

There are a number of bonus films included with this set and these set out to enlarge on this approach to Schumann and the use of the venue etc. To do this there is an emphasis placed upon the views of Jarvi and individual orchestral members who illustrate their points with musical extracts. A clear attempt is made to relate all of this with the character of Schumann, a complete Romantic figure within music and beyond. There is also an interesting feature on Bremen as an industrial and cultural centre.

The performances of the music are expertly done with all of this in mind. The playing style is very disciplined with crisp enunciation, sharply underlined accents and tempo changes and a general clarification of textures. There is no evidence of the thick scoring that Schumann used to be criticised for in the past. This would also be true, not only of either Gardiner or Goodman with their authentic orchestras, but also of perceptive conductors with modern orchestras. Even Szell with his larger modern orchestra kept textures clean and tempi lively.

So in these performances we get a very good set of performances presented in a way that many will already be familiar with. The 'newness' is not really a revelation to those used to the Gardiner set which I would suggest is obligatory listening for any student of the Schumann sound. The first symphony is lively and light on its feet as is appropriate to the chosen subject. The second symphony is correctly darker with the most dramatic approach of the four. This is also appropriate. I personally think this has the edge over the similarly sized and engaging performance by Ashkenazy and included as part of a standard orchestral concert.

The third is a fine performance, again fairly sprightly but also with sonorous moments as in the trombone choral episodes. The horns are also rightly more highlighted in the symphony. I prefer this to the Harding one seen as part of an 'Homage' concert to Schumann. The fourth symphony is also light on its feet and is heard here in its much revised and familiar later version. This is a very successful performance and brings the set to a rousing conclusion. I personally find this a far more involving experience than that in the Chailly concert which includes an excellent concerto with Argerich as its highlight.

The sound is full ranging and presented in very clear DTS 5.1 and stereo. The camera work and imaging is engaging and offers tremendously clear detail.

Overall I found this a very engaging set which contains the most individually satisfying performances of all four symphonies so far available on video disc. The alternatives all come within mixed concerts so there is no actual comparison possible of a single disc collection of all four works. There are very good CD alternatives which should not be forgotten, notably those by Gardiner and Szell. These do not have imaging but have more music, good sound (excellent in the case of Gardiner) and fine performances of character. The Gardiner performance in particular gives an even greater insight into Schumann's sound world as it uses a highly experienced and top quality 'period' orchestra.

I would suggest therefore that this very generously filled disc is of excellent quality and value and will be a hard act to follow, let alone beat within its chosen formats. I would therefore suggest that it will give a great deal of satisfaction to a great number of purchasers. For that reason a 5 star assessment seems completely reasonable for what is likely to be a very attractive proposition for anyone interested in a specifically visual program. However for those particularly interested in the period aspects of the sound in any format I would suggest that the Gardiner version on CD is far more illuminating and includes far more music, especially the fine but rarely played Konzertstuck for four horns and all in splendidly vivid sound.
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on 17 January 2013
These four performances are all great, but I think that the performance of the 3rd symphony is just incredible, I've heard a lot of recordings of this simphony and I think this one is simply the best... what a fourth moving movement!
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on 6 March 2013
No "musical elitism" here, that's for sure ! Schumann has traditionally been critically downgraded due to somewhat dense
orchestration in his symphonic writing, though nothing can denigrate his striking melodic gifts. This very commendable
collection of his entire symphonic oeuvre, apart from being a superb bargain, should help greatly to popularise his symphonies
Gloriously well played, and conducted. How interesting and encouraging that this audience comprised very substantially of
the younger generation ( students, possibly ?) obviously in very relaxed mood, as they reclined on upholstered settees, rather
than serried ranks of hard seats. A very recommendable DVD.
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on 5 August 2014
Beautifully played and a very good disc for Schumann lovers to listen to but the camera work is seriously impeded by a horrible blue lighting system that is quite unnatural and causes glare and reflections. 5 stars for the players 2 stars for the producer!
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on 26 March 2014
In depth background from the conductor, players and engineers. I felt I had not only learned more about Schumann but that the orchestra had also become my personal friends. The performances are energetic, demanding repeated hearings. The picture and sound quality in Blu-ray are crystal clear, the whole project being managed with German precision. There is generous extra material including how the project.was filmed plus a travelogue on Bremen. Perhaps there is rather too much camera movement during the performances: the players do mention that this was distracting. But this is a very minor blemish on what is a highly recommended set of all four symphonies. Excellent value too.
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on 11 March 2013
If you are a lover of heavy classical music you will love this. I rather prefer light classical music. This is purely for your personal taste.
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