These are challenging renditions. Throughout there are moments which throw a new and clearer light on the music . . . the contours of these compositions are elucidated in a way rarely evident in other recordings . . . I like the way in which these live performances have been engineered . . . These are four great Symphonies.
One of the most gratifying qualities of the performances . . . [preserved] in spacious, meticulously-balanced sound that adheres to the Yellow Label's legendary standards of excellence, is the audible zeal with which the Symphonies are played . . . it is encouraging to find a young orchestra and one of today's finest young conductors bringing to these masterworks tonal and interpretive warmth indicative of legitimate appreciation and affection. . . the "Chamber Orchestra of Europe" produces lean textures that heighten the clarity with which Schumann's orchestration is revealed to the listener without lessening the impact of the boldest passages . . . the Orchestra's sharply-focused playing in these performances enables both Maestro Nézet-Séguin and the listener to give full attention to the nuances of the music and the manner in which Schumann utilized sonic textures as expressive devices . . . [Symphony no. 1]: The hypnotic freshness of the music is touched by suggestions of the melancholy to which Schumann was prone, but luminosity prevails. This is superbly conveyed by the playing of the "Chamber Orchestra of Europe". . . [Symphony no. 4]: Nézet-Séguin harnesses the increased profundity of the music to a broadly-phrased performance of the Symphony. The outer movements . . . are handled with vivacity that is imaginatively differentiated from the almost severe levity of the "Scherzo". Maestro Nézet-Séguin infuses his conducting of the Romanze ("Ziemlich langsam") with profundity but avoids overextending the thoughtfully-constructed thematic material. Both Maestro Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestra disclose comprehensive understanding of Schumann's individual uses of harmonic progressions and sonata form to create and relieve tension among the four movements, which are performed without pauses as stipulated by the composer . . . [Symphony no. 2 / 1st movement]: the consistency of Maestro Nézet-Séguin's phrasing upon each restatement and transformation of the chorale elevates the sly homage to Bach to a veritable Leitmotif. The shifting harmonic foundation of the "Scherzo" is built with unerring intonation by the Orchestra, and Maestro Nézet-Séguin takes great care to divulge the varied characters of the two Trios. The exquisitely somber third movement ("Adagio espressivo") is played with solemnity that does not become lugubrious, Maestro Nézet-Séguin's pacing centering on maintaining rhythmic control without sacrificing flexibility. The triumphant essence of the Beethovenian final movement ("Allegro molto vivace") rockets through the Orchestra's performance, and Maestro Nézet-Séguin underlines each thematic nod to the Symphony's previous movements in the development and coda with discernment . . . [Symphony no. 3]: this performance by the "Chamber Orchestra of Europe" glows with atmospheric Feeling . . . Maestro Nézet-Séguin avoids easy effects, thereby also avoiding the banality that many conductors inflict upon the music, and his reading of the finale -- and of the Symphony as a whole -- grows from a personal connection with the score that integrates inwardness with dynamism. The Orchestra players follow his leadership with buoyancy that eschews the tired traditions that deaden many performances of this eminent score . . . the dividends earned by the performances of the "Chamber Orchestra of Europe" and Yannick Nézet-Séguin on these discs are extravagant.
. . . [Nézet-Séguin is] a strong advocate for [Schumann] . . . The Chamber Orchestra of Europe responds well to Nézet-Séguin's direction, so Schumann's music is substantially lighter sounding, thanks to the lean sound of the ensemble, as well as to the noticeable care the conductor takes in drawing out distinctive timbres, and not letting the music become too homogenous in color. Of course, the expression is affected by this fresh airing of these symphonies, and as might be expected, the music is lighter, cleaner, quicker, and more exciting . . . details are perfectly clear . . .
Yannick Nézet-Séguin here offers true "Schumann-lite" in performances that pay close attention to detail but don't stint on personality . . . Slow movements provide repose without cloying, while "scherzos" and finales are irresistibly light-footed. Potential pitfalls are seemingly effortlessly skirted around . . . Nézet-Séguin's response to Schumann's sound strategies are most revealing in the "Rhenish" . . . [the inner-string repeated quavers at the outset] sound like the splash of a paddleboat on the river . . . Schumann-lite this may be; but it now becomes a heavyweight contender . . .
. . . [a] heartfelt Schumann . . . Schumann's Symphonies are given brilliantly fresh performances by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Yannick Nézet-Séguin . . . [these enormously invigorating and brilliantly executed performances] quash once and for all the old adage that Schumann's Symphonies are deficient in their treatment of the orchestra. Admittedly, employing reduced forces, as is the case here, helps Schumann's cause in enabling all important material in the wind and brass to project more effectively than would be the case with a full symphony orchestra. But even then the deployment of a smaller string section does not in itself solve all balance problems. What is required is a conductor with sufficient aural imagination to bring colour and variety to Schumann's writing, something that is immediately apparent here. From the opening bars of the "Spring" Symphony, Yannick Nézet-Séguin proves to be exceptionally receptive to the exhilaration and unbridled optimism of the music, teasing out a transparency of texture and quicksilver lightness of articulation that rivals that of Mendelssohn. Speeds adopted for the outer movements of these work are fast but never relentless, and Nézet-Séguin has an instinctive grasp of Schumann's fluid lyrical melodic style, responding with great sensitivity to those moments in the musical line where the harmony is at its most intense . . . the "Larghetto" in the "Spring" Symphony is projected with a wonderful sense of intimacy, a quality that is replicated in the gently flowing third movement of the "Rhenish". As the opposite of the emotional spectrum Nézet-Séguin injects toughness and even desperation into the musical argument in passages such as the development section of the first movement of the Second Symphony, and there's great muscular energy in the outer movements of the Fourth. In this particular work, the unanimity of phrasing between oboe and solo cello in the "Romance" is spellbinding, and the great bridge passage between the "Scherzo" and Finale creates an atmosphere of mystery and growing anticipation as the music builds up to an awesome climax . . . compelling qualities . . .
Smaller forces than usual, but the outcome is brilliant detail: Nézet-Séguin proves why he is one of the most exciting of a remarkably rich generation of young conductors.
. . . [Schumann 4]: the performance builds into an unusually cogent organism that leads the ear straight into the heart of the symphony. Elsewhere, the fast music is indeed fast, but veers between ecstatically breathless and mind-racing mania. Slow music feels like the calm after the storm, a relief that makes the music's sweetness even sweeter.
. . . a splendid addition to the numerous accounts of these works on disc. Working with smaller forces than one typically hears, Nézet-Séguin draws remarkably crisp, precise, and polished playing from the superb Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This is a lean, unabashedly classical approach to Schumann's symphonies . . . His streamlined readings bring out considerable detail often lost in a thicker orchestral sound . . . [Nézet-Séguin offers] abundant vigor and transparency. The Third Symphony ("Rhenish") exemplifies his overall approach, reflecting classical grace and esprit rather than romantic majesty. The first movement bursts forth with bountiful joy. Nézet-Séguin brings a marvelous clarity to the interplay among the instruments throughout the symphony and there's a delectable lightness to the tripping string passages in the second movement. The fourth movement's evocation of Cologne Cathedral, meanwhile, is rendered with haunting gravity. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe [is exhibiting an excellent ensemble unity] . . . [Nézet-Séguin's account of the First Symphony is] spring-like: sunny and breezy, with a warm second-movement Larghetto . . . the conductor offers a forceful account of the Second Symphony, written when Schumann was suffering from depression and poor health. In the racing second movement, Nézet-Séguin emphasizes the idea of the composer chased by his demons. Nézet-Séguin and the orchestra deliver the revised 1851 version of the Fourth Symphony with enormous zest . . . the Chamber Orchestra of Europe's playing in the Fourth -- and throughout the set -- is incisive and immaculate.
Heute klingen die Romantiker schlank und licht. Zumal wenn Schumann von einem "Kammerorchester" gespielt wird -- in diesem Fall vom Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Nézet-Séguin duldet keine Verklebungen, keine dick aufgetragenen Farben. Sein Schumann braucht Luft zum Atmen und Raum für Bewegung. Im November 2012 hat Nézet-Séguin die vier Schumann-Sinfonien in Paris im Konzert aufgeführt. Der Mitschnitt fängt viel von dieser Liveatmosphäre ein, vor allem Spontaneität und eine gesunde Spannung, die gerade bei den Übergängen hörbar wird . . . Was diesen Schumann-Zyklus umittelbar in die vordere Reihe [bringt] . . . ist die Tatsache, dass Nézet-Séguin nicht einseitige Bilder entwirft. Er ist nicht entweder weichlich oder heroisch auftrumpfend, er nimmt nicht elegisch jedes Seitenthema oder donnernd jeden Aufschwung. Vielmehr weiß der Kanadier auch um die Bedeutung des Dazwischen: zärtliches Beben, klug gestaffeltes Drängen. Er hat immer eine Lösung parat, etwa wie man mit Schumanns Verschleierungstechniken umzugehen hat, wenn er das Tempo subtil anzieht. Nézet-Séguin deutet Schumanns Sinfonik jung, federnd, vital -- und mit einem lyrischen Empfinden, das ihm erlaubt Melodien auszusingen. Eine klare Empfehlung!
Eindrucksvoll, wie Sportsfreund Schumann hier in die Stretta-Zielgeraden sprintet: Dirigent Yannick Nézet-Séguin gibt sich als Meister der Beschleunigungsschübe, und das "Chamber Orchestra of Europe" folgt ihm nicht nur im atemberaubenden Presto-Spurt am Ende der vierten Sinfonie (eingespielt in der Zweitfassung von 1851) mit federndem Elan und technischer Perfektion. Klassizistisch straff und ohne pseudo-romantischen Mehltau hört sich die Interpretation Nézet-Séguins von Robert Schumanns vier Sinfonien an. Da bleibt keine Spur von öliger Klangschliere, von vermeintlich schwerfälliger Instrumentation. Im Gegenteil: Selbst dort, wo der Maestro sich und den Werken die gebührend auftrumpfende Kraft- und auch Lautstärkedosis gönnt, etwa am hymnischen Ende der Zweiten, herrscht sehnig-kammermusikalische Athletik. Dem gemäß lassen Dirigent und Orchester stets auch das Licht der Transparenz leuchten, von der Kontrapunktik des feierlich archaisierenden vierten Satzes der "Rheinischen Sinfonie" bis zu den rhythmisierten Begleitteppichen.
. . . Packend! . . . Furios . . . Leidenschaftlich und furios ist Nezet-Seguins Schumann von der ersten bis zur letzten Note . . .