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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Robert Schumann!

Robert Schumann
It's Robert Schumann's 200th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with a large doorstop box set with (most of) his major works on 35 discs?

Robert Schumann was a Renaissance man living in the 19th century. He created classic piano works that broke new ground for the instrument, abandoning traditional forms to create new Romantic ideals. He wrote unjustly neglected vocal music that served as a quiet influence on the development of song and choral works in German-speaking countries. And he was a sharp critic with a fearsome pen wgo encouraged and influenced other compos ers, most notably Johannes Brahms.

This solid box from DG is by no means complete, but it is an engaging 35-disc survey of the major Schumann works--or at least the recordings that DG and its "brother" company Decca have access to.

The choice of recordings here is not always perfect. (John Eliot Gardiner's "period" symphony cycle over Rafael Kubelik's? Really?) But they are still excellent performances. Highlights include:

  • Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's long-out-of-print cycle of the songs

  • A reissue of the cantata "Die Paradise und die Peri" under the aforementioned Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
  • Scenes from Goethe's Faust, an underperformed cantata, conducted here by none other than the composer Benjamin Britten

  • Chamber music from the Hagen Quartet and the Beaux Arts Trio

  • Great (Maurizio Pollini) and decent (Vladimir Ashkenazy) pianists surveying the vast piano catalogue.
There are some notable absences, (the opera Genoveva which was recorded for Teldec) but the sheer amount of music here and the low price makes this a worthy investment for any music enthusiast.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats