Robert Schumann’s four symphonies (really five, there are two versions of No.4) are gems of the repertoire, wonderful works that are picturesque, exhilarating and soul-searching. Played less in the concert hall than they should be, the recording catalogue has embraced them without question for many decades.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin clearly loves these rewarding scores and inspires the superb Chamber Orchestra of Europe. There are many ways of interpreting great music. Nézet-Séguin opts for lively fast movements with an irresistible bounce and crisp precision in the playing, and eloquent slow ones that touch the heart.
The ‘Spring’ Symphony (No.1) is full of appropriate vernal freshness and ripe song, and the ‘Rhenish’ (No.3) may be heard as a joyous excursion, including a magisterial evocation of Cologne Cathedral. No.4 (as revised, the original is quirkier) is single-minded and tumultuous. As for the marvellous Second Symphony – passion-driven and with one of the loveliest, most tender of adagios – it receives a rousing outing. Throughout these compassionate readings strings and winds are equals, with detail beguilingly revealed, and the recording is lucid and beautifully balanced. There are numerous notable versions of these timeless classics, but Nézet-Séguin’s dynamic, closely-observed approach really hits the spot.