Schumann symphonies 1 and 2
The Schumann Symphony number 2 is one of my all-time great favorites. And the reason is that when I first joined a symphony orchestra more than 50 years ago, I recall our practice sessions to get this music ready for performance. Apparently such experiences stay with us for a long, long time…
For many years, Schumann was severely criticized as a poor orchestrator. That was just the “in-thing” to do in those days. I certainly do not agree. In this recording we have the Bavarian Radio Symphony, whose enthusiasm for this music is obvious, given the fine results that they achieve. The tempi chosen by their leader, Rafael Kubelik, are moderate; there are some strong dynamic surges, and the sound is very satisfying. The color, balance, and warmth are excellent, with a truly spring-like performance of the Symphony No. 1, and the No. 2 has some of the most exciting orchestration and thrilling string writing imaginable.
I would suggest that you pay particular attention to the 3rd movement of the Symphony #2. It is the slow movement, and it features one of the most sublime melodies one can imagine. Both of these symphonies are masterpieces; they ought to be heard a lot more frequently.
The New York Philharmonic has a new conductor, Alan Gilbert. Have a listen to what he has to say about the Schumann Second Symphony: