This set is definitely a must for all lovers of Harnoncourt's magnificent interpretations apart from the fact that it contains some of the most inspiring Schumann ever put on record. Each symphony is imbued with delightful characteristics which make the music shine even more although this is none the more apparent in the Fourth Symphony (1841 version) which includes a radically revised Finale that makes the blood curdle and the hairs stand on end. Harnoncourt's "Spring" bubbles over with infectious vitality especially in the magical opening which has rarely been so brazenly captured.
The Second symphony moves along quite merrily as well and includes some beautiful turns of phrase in the Finale which matches George Szell's legendary Cleveland version for raucous vitality. In the "Rhenish", Harnoncourt is at least on a par with my favourite recommendation, and that is the brilliant Wolfgang Sawallish and the Staatskapelle Dresden who remain hors conceurs in their memorable 1973 recording which still comes up as fresh as a daisy after more than three decades.
With Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich as soloists in the violin and piano concertos respectively, quality is obviously guaranteed all through. Newcomers to Schumann should definitely invest in this magnificent set whilst those who missed the recordings first time round are urged to acquire them. Sound and balance are superb with the live recordings adding that little extra to what already are sublime readings.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech