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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Robert Schumann, Violin Concerto, Symphony No. 1 "Spring", Phantasie for Violin and Orchestra, Thomas Zehetmair, Orchestre de chambre de Paris

If I have not previously had the occasion to hear Robert Schumann's "Violin Concerto," I am perhaps not alone. It was written in 1853 along with the "Phantasie for Violin and Orchestra" for the celebrated virtuoso Joseph Joachim, yet in the end Schumann decided to withhold the Concerto from publication, having doubts about its playability.  It was not published in fact until 1937. Violinist Thomas Zehetmair gives us a beautiful reading of his revised version based on the original manuscript (the 1937 version contains numerous errors) plus the Phantasie and the "Symphony No. 1 'Spring'" under his conductorship on a new ECM recording with the Orchestra de chambre de Paris (ECM New Series 2396).

Zehetmair provides us with an emotionally exuberant version of the Concerto, with a very convincing performance-argument for the importance of the work. He is an ideal Schumann exponent which we hear readily in the Concerto and the Phantasie and then again for a stirring reading of the Spring Symphony.

The Orchestre chambre de Paris sounds inspired and motivated to bring us a Schumann that sounds less Beethovenesque than one sometimes hears. There is plenty of passion but a nice balance with the more modest-sized orchestra, so that winds get a fuller presence than one sometimes hears, the strings very much present but not ultra-dominant.

The big surprise certainly is the very convincing performance of the Concerto, yet its largess of expression fits right in with the treatment of the Spring Symphony and the Phantasie.

Surely all who appreciate Schumann will find the performance of the Concerto moving and revelatory, the other works detailed, impassioned and true-to-form. Thomas Zehetmair is a world-class artist whose loving attention to the music gives us a near ideal picture of the works as envisioned by the composer. Bravo!

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