The four symphonies of Robert Schumann (1810-1856) have endured more than their fair share of criticism, neglect, and mishandling over the years, particularly compared with the hallowed treatment acco

The four symphonies of Robert Schumann (1810-1856) have endured more than their fair share of criticism, neglect, and mishandling over the years, particularly compared with the hallowed treatment accorded the symphonies of his younger peer Brahms. They may not have the iconic, world-beating qualities of that master's symphonic works, but Schumann's more modest essays in the form do feature some of the most transcendent passages in 19th century music. Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan have been among the few to maximize the expression in these symphonies, but Christoph Eschenbach and his North German Radio band do them wonderful justice here, imparting a classical restraint and poise to the composer's High Romanticism. In particular, the Second Symphony's sublime slow movement and the "Rhenish" Sympony's grand "Cologne cathedral" movement have the power to move anyone who has the great fortune to hear them. As a bonus rarity, the two-disc set includes Schumann's dramatic overture Die Braut von Messina.—BB

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