Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
January 2007


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Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4
This is certainly among the finest recordings of Schumann’s orchestral music ever made, standing alongside the classic recordings of Szell, Sawallisch, Solti, Kubelik, Klemperer, and above all Walterand Furtwängler. How could this be? Because Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra have accomplished the impossible: they make the music sound new. They accomplish this miracle in part through brilliant programming. Of the four works here, only the Second Symphony is standard-repertoire Schumann while the rest range from his hardly known overtures to Faust and Julius Caesar to the only relatively recently re-discovered original version of his Fourth Symphony. But the orchestra accomplishes this miracle more because of its performances, all of which have the excitement of world premieres. The Swedish Chamber Orchestra is a chamber orchestra in name only: the power of tone, the strength of sonorities, and the vigor of attacks would blow down the walls of any room smaller than a full-scale concert hall. With it as his instrument, Dausgaard creates performances that are at once musically lucid and emotionally passionate. The myth that Schumanncouldn’t orchestrate is demolished as one hears in these performances the work of an inspired composer working at a red-hot heat to transform into music the deepest feelings of his heart and the profoundest thoughts in his head. Recorded in stunning super audio sound that seats the listener 10 feet in front of the conductor, this disc should be heard by anyone who loves Schumann’s orchestral music. – James Leonard, All Music
“Dausgaard is not the first conductor to use the 1841 version of the D minor Symphony… but… this performance, given by an orchestra of the size of Schumann himself would have known brings it vividly to life. Even more impressive… is the C major Second Symphony. …the first and last movements – the latter taken at a tremendous speed – are electrifying. As for the Adagio – the most heartrendingly beautiful piece of its kind between Schubert and Bruckner – it is quite wonderfully played, with a spellbinding pianissimo sound for its central fugato passage.” – BBC Music Magazine
“All this talk of Schumann’s stodgy orchestral writing…Rubbish! Evidence for the defence is simple: keep the orchestra slim and well balanced, the tempi lively and the textures clear and the calories positively fall away. Thomas Dausgaard, with just 38 players, turns the symphonic Schumann into a thoughtful athlete who burns energy while his mind spins.
Dausgaard opts for the 1841 original version of the Fourth Symphony, with its faltering, even abrupt, transition from an opening Andante to a fleet Allegro. It leaves a very different impression to the revision. The transition from Scherzo to finale is much as it is in the familiar 1851 version but the finale itself contains ‘new’ material and neither of the outer movements has repeats. All in all, it is less thick-set than its successor: Brahms preferred it.
The Second Symphony is similarly revealing with keen accents and prominent inner voices, the latter half of the slow introduction biting and muscular, the main Allegro superbly built. In the Scherzo Dausgaard slows and softens the bridge passage appealingly, accentuating the dizzy flight back to the main subject. In the achingly beautiful Adagio, top line and accompaniment seem to lean on each other to ease the pain, and in speeding for the finale’s second set Dausgaard intensifies the argument, making fresh sense of it.
BIS’s realistic sound quality helps the clarifying process and the timps (with hard sticks) have tremendous presence. A good idea, too, to include Schumann’s Julius Caesar and Faust overtures: strange, relatively late essays, equivocal music, slightly unhinged and played – appropriately enough – with a restless, slightly nervous edge.” – The Gramophone Classical Music Guide
“The playing throughout is first-rate, with often dazzling, thrilling faster movements, but also some beautifully shaped, tender slower music, and a real feeling for the emotional extremes that are at the heart of Schumann’s art.” – The Sunday Times
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61

I. Sostenuto assai – Allegro ma non troppo

II. Scherzo: Allegro vivace

III. Adagio espressivo

IV. Allegro molto vivace

Robert Schumann: Scenen aus Goethes Faust, WoO3

  • Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, Woo3

Robert Schumann: Julius Caesar Overture, Op. 128

  • Julius Cesar Overture, Op. 128

Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120 (original version, 1841)

I. Andante con moto – Allegro di molto

II. Romanza: Andante

III. Scherzo: Presto

IV. Largo – Finale: Allegro vivace