"It's like Christmas all year round with these pieces." - Sir Simon Rattle
At the center of the Berlin Philharmonic's residency in New York this week are two concerts at Carnegie Hall in which they perform all four of Robert Schumann's symphonies under their chief conductor, Simon Rattle. In the below video, released by the Berlin Phil to promote their recording of Schumann's symphonies on their new in-house label, Rattle reveals that he came to these symphonies relatively late in life. Indeed, these remarkable symphonies - essentially the missing link between Beethoven and Brahms - have languished in relative obscurity for the better part of a century, mostly due to a bunch of romantic-era reorchestrations that Schumann never sanctioned.
At last night's concert, the mighty Berlin Phil was reduced to a classical-sized orchestra that took up barely half of Carnegie's stage: just strings, brass, winds, and timapni. The result was a transparent, articulate sound which still felt overpowering, even terrifying. This was especially of the 2nd symphony, with its almost unbearable tension giving way to some of the most triumphant music ever written: a close cousin to Beethoven's 5th symphony, with which it shares the key of C Major. Good things do indeed come in small packages.
Round two tonight with Schumann's 3rd and 4th symphonies, along with the U.S. Premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas' dark dreams. The concert is sold out, but check with the box office for returns. More pics from last night's concert here.