"When great cycles of the Schumann symphonies are mentioned, I don't know why this one rarely if ever comes up. To my mind, it's vastly superior to the Szell/Cleveland cycle, if one wants to stray no further than this label, and the recorded sound is far superior, too. (I'm befuddled over the glowing reviews the Szell gets--I love Szell, but I find these generally ordinary performances in gray sound.) Here we have the Bavarian Radio Symphony, whose enthusiasm for this music is obvious. (Either that or it's their enthusiasm for Kubelik--he has produced other joyous discs with them.) They play in a very unmannered, spontaneous way that suggests that 80 musicians just happened to arrive at the same interpretive idea at the same moment. The tempi are medium, there are some tremendous dynamics, and the sound is fat and ripe without wallowing in excessive Romanticism or a thick, muddy sound. Schumann has been savaged by critics for generations for what are considered to be poorly-orchestrated symphonies, but I don't hear any evidence of it here. The color and warmth are second to none, with a truly spring-like No. 1, a No. 2 that has some of the most transparent orchestration and thrilling string writing in the repertoire (what fun the scherzo must be to play). Kudos to Kubelik for making the coda NOT sound like it's Beethoven-derived by underplaying the da-da-da-daaa march rhythm.
The Third Symphony first movement, in a rollicking 6/8, is filled with vigor and forward momentum, while at the same time the counterpoint never gets smothered as it does on some other recordings (Karajan's, for example--he seems to have some difficulty picking through Schumann's rich textures, though I like his performances a lot). More importantly, though, is his sure sense of structure in this, Schumann's longest symphony. It's hard to explain in a brief review, but some interpretors get lost in the forest here. Kubelik's sense of pacing, build and tension and release are second to none here, making this one of the great Thirds I've ever heard.
The Fourth is one of the all-time great readings of this work. While not quite on a par with the immortal Furtwangler, there are some dark moments in the development section of the first movement that are absolutely stunning, although WF competely outconducts Kubelik (and everyone else) in the finale. I found myself drawn into this powerful music like I am with few conductors.
There are many other fine Schumann cycles out there: Bernstein's last with DG (marred by mannerisms, however; what a surprise), Haitink's with the Concertgebouw (a little stodgy in places, however), Karajan's set with the BPO (though it's a bit thick in places). Sawallisch with the Dresden Staatskapelle is also very solid, though not particularly imaginative, and well-recorded. In addition, Marriner once record a superb No. 2 (now sadly out of print) and of course there's Furtwangler's immortal 4th. These recordings deserve to be up there with the best of them, and are, as I said, better than the set by Szell."
Don't just do it -- GET IT!
jdflynnno | 11/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ladies and gentlemen, these are the facts:You won't get a better performance at this price of Schumann's first two symphonies than Kubelik and the BRSO from the 1970s. Kubelik cuts through those patented Schumann orchestral sticky wickets like a laser beam through diamonds. And all the romanticism is left unspoiled. You can buy better recorded versions, but you won't find better priced ones. Unless, of course, you have Kubelik's Schumann recordings on DG with the Berliners from the 1960s. I like these better, only because they sound more clearer. Get these before some Sony bean-counter decides the company can't waste money any longer on these types of "pro bono publicos." BTW, the tapes are very good, too."
Part One of A Great Schumann Symphony Cycle
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 08/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rafael Kubelik recorded Schumann's symphonies twice; many critics regard his second cycle with his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra as a more inspiring account, even if the sound quality isn't Deutsche Grammophon's usual excellence. On this CD are the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra's warm, vibrant performances of Schumann's first two symphonies. I believe these were recorded in the same Berlin church which Deutsche Grammophon used to record most of the Berlin Philharmonic's recordings in the 1960's and 1970's. Anyone interested in excellent accounts of Schumann's first two symphonies should not pass up this bargain CD."
Kubelik's lighter way with Schumann is still refreshing afte
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 06/07/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I came away from Kubelik's first Schumann cycle, done with the Berlin Phil. on DG, less than impressed. Dating from the early Sixties, it felt devitalized and ordinary, offering not the slightest competition to great readings by Bernstein, Karajan, and Klemperer that came out around the same time. Yet I had always been fond of Kubelik's second cycle with his own Bavarian Radio orchestra, issued by Sony in 1979. This CD, which sells for very little on the used market, couples Sym. #1 and #2. Frankly, they are the weaker half of the cycle. Kubelik inserts some doubtufl ritards in the First and never quite captures the whirlwind of joy that is the Scherzo of the Second.
For all that, this remake is miles ahead of the DG version, because of far better recording and an air of brightness and affection that imbues every note. At the time this was considered Schumann lite, but now we have recordings that employ chamber orchestras and zippy tempos, so Kubleik's way feels more middle of the road. Not in a derogatory way, however. It's still refreshing after thirty years to hear the touch of Mendelssohnian puckishness that Kubelik imparts to the finale of the "Spring" Sym. He's never grandiose or pretentious. I can't say that I hear greatness in these readings, but they are very enjoyable and hold up well."