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Four Symphonies

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3.6 out of 5 stars 10 reviews from Amazon.com

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Audio CD, 19 Apr 1999
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 1 In B-Flat Major, Op.38 ('Spring'): 1. Andante un poco maestoso. Allegro molto vivace
  2. Symphony No.1 In B-Flat Major, Op.38 ('Spring'): 2. Larghetto
  3. Symphony No.1 In B-Flat Major, Op.38 ('Spring'): 3. Scherzo. Molto vivace. Trio I, Trio II
  4. Symphony No.1 In B-Flat Major, Op.38 ('Spring'): 4. Allegro animato e grazioso
  5. Symphony No.2 In C Major, Op.61: 1. Sostenuto assai. Allegro ma non troppo
  6. Symphony No.2 In C Major, Op.61: 2. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
  7. Symphony No.2 In C Major, Op.61: 3. Adagio espressivo
  8. Symphony No.2 In C Major, Op.61: 4. Allegro molto vivace

Disc: 2

  1. Symphony no.3 In E-Flat Major, Op.97 ('Rhenish'): 1. Lebhaft
  2. Symphony no.3 In E-Flat Major, Op.97 ('Rhenish'): 2. Scherzo. Sehr massig
  3. Symphony no.3 In E-Flat Major, Op.97 ('Rhenish'): 3. Nicht schnell
  4. Symphony no.3 In E-Flat Major, Op.97 ('Rhenish'): 4. Feierlich
  5. Symphony no.3 In E-Flat Major, Op.97 ('Rhenish'): 5. Lebhaft
  6. Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120: 1. Ziemlich langsam; Lebhaft
  7. Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120: 2. Romanze. Ziemlich langsam
  8. Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120: 3. Scherzo. Lebhaft
  9. Symphony No.4 In D Minor, Op.120: 4. Langsam; labhaft
  10. Manfred, Overture for Orchestra, Op.115

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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars 10 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST FOURTH EVER RECORDED—If you help it along a little... 15 Sept. 2016
By frankebe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Well, I have to admit—it took a little work on my part, but with some help from my computer, these are the most satisfying performances of these symphonies that I have ever heard. ALTHOUGH I do keep returning to Kubelik and the Berliner Phiharmoniker (I love the German spelling, heh) as my sort of basic "yardstick" for how the poetry of the music should go. But as far as the fun, Paray has it hands down. (Just fer the books, I've heard Szell, Karajan, Furtwangler (the 4th), both Kubeliks, Levine and the Berliners, both Bernsteins, Sawallish, Gardiner, Goodman, Haitink, Giulini (the 3rd), and snatches of Barenboim and Zinnman, and probably others I've forgotten.)

Paray gives us the fastest tempos bar none. BUT, unlike Bernstein, who rushes, Paray knows when to STOP, and take a breath. Which is great. Paray is the ONLY one who goes fast enough for me in the Fourth symphony. Most critics say that Furtwangler offers "The best fourth ever recorded"—yeah, maybe... and it bores me to DEATH. It is SO SLOW and UNeventful. ... Paray's Fourth is MUCH more interesting! (Although I do like Karajan's transition to the finale—it is... HAIRraising! MUCH better than old Furty baby.)

These are incredibly fun, interesting interpretations that I have listened to a whole bunch of times since getting this set just a few days ago!

Now about that quality of sound. Yeah, yeah, it's 1950s stuff. Quibbling a bit, the curiosity is that the later the recordings, the less clear the sound. To wit: the 1958 stereo of the First Symphony is a little blurry—the timpani (I love timpani) sounds like its under-water. But it's not bad overall; I'm just quibbling... The Second Symphony (recorded earlier) sounds better to my ears, although I still wish the timpani and trombones had a bit more edge to them (quibbling). The Rhenish sounds great to me.

So what about that 1954 monophonic Fourth? Yes folks, it's tight, boxy, right-in-the-center-of-your-head mono. But guess what? There is PLENTY OF FIDELITY in them grooves. And it's actually recorded the clearest of all!! The timpani and the brass are WILDLY clear!

So, here's what I did, and you can do it too — or your son or daughter can do it for you:

You put the symphony on your Mac. Now you open up "Garagband" or some audio-editing software. With three simple tricks you can spread apart that mono so it actually sounds BETTER than the real stereo of the other symphonies! It is SPECTACULAR!

NOW you have the perfect set of Schumann symphonies (in my opinion) in awesome sound!

It's just one man's opinion...

What are them tricks? Well, if you can't figure them out, you can ask me. It would take me a while to explain it clearly in words, so I won't do it right now; if you can't figure it out or find it Online somewhere and you ACTUALLY try to do it, let me know and I will help you.

But don't ask just because you're curious... It's a little time-consuming for me to explain, but I'll help you if you're serious...

And then... on to those boxy-but-great sounding Toscanini recordings...

...
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not this label's best 17 Feb. 2014
By M. Lisowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Harsh treble, tubby bass, small soundstage...recording ambience closer to a barrel than a concert hall!
As I own many other of this label's offerings (including SACDs), which generally sound great-- this set
shocked and disappointed when I took it for a spin.
Clearly, not Mercury Living Presence's best work. I would avoid it and get ANY other set of Schumann's symphonies,
as you could not do worse.
4.0 out of 5 stars This is how Schumann Symphonies are done. 14 Aug. 2014
By Six Stringer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
If only Maestro Paray had recorded more than he did with Detroit.

Not pretending to understand the so-called "improvements" to Schumann's symphonies in order to make them more presentable in concert, Paul Paray did understand and famously quoted to have said after hearing another conductor and orchestra conduct, I believe Symphony 2: nice music, but who wrote it?

After listening to this recording of symphony 2, however, how could it be any other way? It was as if, finally, someone got it right. His tempi are provokingly judged. The music just jumps off the page, through your ears, and into your heart.

Paray's recording of Symphony 3 is exceptional as well. The Maestro and his Detroiters clearly have broken through my Schumann "Curse". I love the 3rd, but could not achieve the same experience on other recordings of 1 and 2.

As for the first, Spring never sounded more fresh, which leads to the odd selection of the cover of the CD showing leaves turning to fall colors.

With respect to the sound quality of these old MLP recordings, I cannot always recommend them. However, all the Paray and Detroit MLP cd's in my collection sound fantastic, just like you are there in the middle. The Cass High School auditorium, where many, if not all of Paray's Detroit efforts, were recorded by MLP had great acoustics and was perfectly suited for MLP's three microphone technique. As for the orchestra, by the time he recorded many of the French classics in stereo, he had the Detroiters whipped up into a fine tuned and well oiled machine.

Paray is one of my favorites. In the French repertoire, perhaps, he is second to none. (Sorry, Munch lovers and to other great French music conductors, I mean no offense.) Perhaps, that French background, is a key as to why his Schumann recordings are legendary. They are light as air. No heavy handedness present here.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some fine playing, but sound not up to Mercury's standards 25 Nov. 2002
By sphaerenklang - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The interpretations are as fresh and well-judged as other reviews indicate, but I found it difficult to listen to the 4th symphony because of a persistent, high pitched electronic noise like the whining of an elderly television set all through the piece. It was either turn the treble way down or get a headache.

Perhaps in 20 years' time when my high frequency hearing has disappeared I will be able to enjoy such a thing. It seems that the old guard at Mercury aren't all that sharp-eared, since this hideous noise would have been fairly easy to filter out.

The 1st and 3rd symphonies are sonically pretty good, but as one other reviewer said, the sound on the 2nd Symphony isn't quite up to their standard, lacking a certain amount of presence and being a bit shaky on the high frequencies (oboes and trumpets are "flaky" in their upper registers).

Interestingly, the woodwind and trumpet sound on these 50's recordings isn't that far off the "period instrument" type of sound: the oboes in particular are bright, incisive and somewhat thin-toned. Clarity is the watchword for most of the orchestral textures. However the timpani and double basses are resolutely post-romantic, being rather overpowering, especially at the climactic ends of some movements - they boom out in an energetic, but unfocused way, communicating through seismic vibrations...
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original recipe 6 May 2007
By Classic Music Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Paul Paray was one of the first conductors to go back to Schumann's own original orchestrations of these symphonies. Before that, many a conductor had tweaked and fiddled with the scores to "enhance" the melodic lines -- and also to "heavy them up" in that stereotypically Germanic manner. Perhaps it took a Gallic conductor like Paray to treat Schumann's delicate-yet-vibrant scores like a watercolor rather than an oil painting. (Paray, hearing one of Schumann's symphonies performed with a doctored score, was quoted as saying to the conductor after the concert, "Nice piece. Who wrote it?")

Paray is most effective in Nos. 1, 2 and 4. The Rhenish is not quite as special, but certainly OK. Nothing like the travesties you'll hear with Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic. Like others who have reviewed this CD, I also hear the high-pitched whine in the 4th symphony. It's not unbearable, but why couldn't the engineers have gotten rid of it?
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