This CD marks the conclusion of Thielemannís Schumann cycle with the Philharmonia. It is by turns a delightful and frustrating release. Listen to the passage for strings in the coda of the first movement of Schumannís First Symphony. Thielemann takes a big ritard in order to set off this quasi-chorale, which the Philharmonia strings play warmly and beautifully. The performance is perfectly organized and executed. On the other hand, the opening chord of the Fourth Symphony sounded so wrong I had to check the CD case to make sure a different piece wasnít being played. Instead of forte itís a weak mezzo-piano, and the strings are almost inaudible, so what you hear is a piercing flute over timpani that sound more like tom-toms.
Thatís pretty much how it goes throughout: as this CD giveth, so it taketh away. For every marvel of Schumannís writing that Thielemann made me aware of, he seemed to ride roughshod over another. A brisk, well-paced movement is followed by one that sounds sluggish, and the playing is stylish here and somewhat careless there. Matters arenít helped by a sound picture thatís homogeneous and diffuse. Much as I enjoyed parts of this recording, itís hard to recommend it as a whole, especially when, for the price tag, there are a number of sets of all four symphonies that are far more consistently enjoyable.