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Cat. No. CHAN 9760 Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9760 - Schumann: Symphonies & Choral Ballades, Vol. 1
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Available From: 21 October 1999
In a characteristic surge of creative euphoria Schumann worked rapidly on the ‘Rhenish’ Symphony, sketching and orchestrating the whole work in late 1850, and conducting it in February the following year. With its elemental, open-air feeling the ‘Rhenish’ Symphony is the most bracing and spontaneous of all Schumann’s later works and probably the last of all his compositions to exude a sense of unalloyed optimism.

A spirit of ‘joie de vivre’ is immediately established by the first movement’s exuberant syncopated opening theme, offset by the second theme, a gently plaintive valse triste. The Scherzo is a Ländler, whose main theme has a rolling bucolic gait. The third movement, a lyrical intermezzo in Schumann’s most intimate fireside vein, is a point of repose at the heart of the work, its tender poerty enhanced by warm, luminous scoring. A fourth movement of polyphonic grandeur can be seen as an introduction to the Finale. The Finale itself is built on relaxed, clear-cut themes that release the tension of the fourth movement and recapture the alfresco spirit of the opening.

Schumann’s setting of Ludwig Uhland’s ballad ‘Des Sängers Fluch’ (The Minstrel’s Curse) was sketched and scored in three weeks in January 1852. The score was revised the following October, and did not appear in print until 1858. It contains some of Schumann’s most vivid and dramatic writing. The sombrely scored opening arioso for the narrator (alto) sets the work’s bardic tone. The most powerful and visionary music, in its free, flexible declamation, tortured chromaticism and lugubrious, highly suggestive orchestral colouring, looks forward to the mature operas of Wagner.

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