New CD completes Baltimore Symphony's series of Schumann recordings

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's new recording of Robert Schumann's second and third symphonies completes its Schumann series with lively readings of the No. 3 "Rhenish," a depiction of Rhine River charms, and the lesser known mixture of colors, No. 2.

Expected in stores next week ($14.98), the Telarc compact disc of 10 seconds shy of 70 minutes was recorded almost two years ago, in April 1989. It follows Symphonies No. 1 and 4 released by the orchestra in April 1990. David Zinman, BSO music director, has led a half dozen orchestras in 40 recordings on six labels. His latest helps listeners appreciate Schumann (1810-1856).


The disc reveals interesting side journeys into the Romantic heart of the troubled composer known more for his piano music and songs than his symphonies and more for his health problems and brooding than his good times. No. 2 in C major was composed in December 1845, and the five-movement No. 3 in E flat Major in November and December 1850, five years before his death.

The No. 2 Symphony alternates between solemn and happy, the recording revealing only hints of the pewter grayness of Schumann's melancholia, illnesses and confinement. One feature is the repetition of its opening theme in all four movements. Several other themes seem like disconnected songs, the scherzo quite friendly, the adagio lovely.


In the "Rhenish," the BSO develops Schumann's light, wistful and even joyous strains. The orchestra's violins and soon the woodwinds and then woodwinds/horns play sprightly themes in the first three movements depicting the composer's delight in Rhineland vineyards, castles, hills and the fast-moving river that has carried German dreams for centuries.

The extra fourth movement has trombones heralding, we are told, a scene Schumann and his wife, Clara Wieck, witnessed, the elevation of an archbishop to a cardinal in the cathedral of Cologne. The religious theme and a final hymn of praise to the river flow into each other in the final movement. Missing is any feeling of the despair that once prompted Schumann to jump into the Rhine in a failed suicide attempt.

In connection with the disc's release, the BSO announced that Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6 won't be recorded this season as planned, for lack of sales potential. It was felt that too many existing recordings would limit sales.

The orchestra will record Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird," "Fireworks" and "Petrouchka" on Telarc this season as originally scheduled. Earlier this season, the BSO recorded Berlioz works including "Symphonie Fantastique" and the overtures "Les Francs Juges" and "Carnaval Romain."

The BSO also said it would record Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1 and Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 next season, continuing a plan to record a minimum of two CDs on Telarc each year.