Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
The World's Greatest Composer
Schumann wrote four symphonies, each in its own way a masterpiece. For much of the 20th century it was fashionable to mock Schumann's orchestration and the (lack of) formal structure in his orchestral works.
My first introduction to Schumann came in the late 1950's when aged about 10 I heard the Krips / LSO Decca recordings of the four symphonies. As I listened entranced, I wondered what planet the sleeve note writer was on. This was incredible music. I was hooked. By the late 1960's, with money in my pocket to buy the now much cheaper LPs, I started my Schumann collection with these very recordings in the form of their Ace of Diamonds re-release. However, listening to other
performances I came to realise that Krips, like many of his generation, was unsympathetic to Schumann's raw emotion and romanticism.
For me, it was Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Staatskapelle Dresden with their ground-breaking recordings of 1973 that really brought the music alive. These are the performances I shall use for the majority of my excerpts in this section. I can't use the full recordings, but these are available for download very cheaply from here and here. Over the last twenty years or so, people have woken up to Schumann's true greatness, and how to interpret his music, and we now have a number of first class recordings available, including another (live) Sawallisch set recorded in 2002-3.
Because all four symphonies mean a lot to me, I shall treat them individually.
Symphony No. 1 Symphony No. 2 Symphony No. 3 Symphony No. 4
Bill Hayles 2010