Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4

Started by Discobole, February 19, 2012, 09:08:10 AM

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John Copeland

Come on, come on, I'm near choking to find out whats what!!   ;D


Quote from: Scots John on February 26, 2012, 01:03:21 PM
Come on, come on, I'm near choking to find out whats what!!   ;D

Exactly my thoughts too... for days! :D :D


So Dausgaard was my favorite!?  Awesome!  Will have to listen on spotify. :)

John Copeland

Quote from: Discobole on February 26, 2012, 03:25:32 PM
I'll send the listening informations for the finals tomorrow. Here are the versions, in the order of listening (but you can do otherwise)if you forgot (the 1st ranked are 1 & 2, then are the 2nd, in order defined by a neutral draw ;) )

- A1
- A5
- B2
- C3
- D5

:-\ This is getting like the elections in Syria.   lolol     :P  Great stuff.  I was with Furty, proving myself to be an 'old school' listener after all.  I am very happy with that result, reagrdless of it being last in the semi finals.  I am now going to GET that recording now that I know what it is, and I am perfectly happy I made the right choice (for me).  This has been VERY worthwile Discobole, thank you.   :D :D :D   Delighted.


Yes, I also saw my preferences in my votes confirmed (so far), not being influenced by names.

I'll have to look at Levine's Schumann then :-)

But what I'm really curious about is the identity of D5, maybe the other Cantelli?

Thanks from me too, Discobole.

PS.: I have been checking out Amazon for Cantelli, quite a lot there, and a tragic story, as I read on wikipedia, he died in a plane crash at Paris Orly, aged only 36.

mc ukrneal

Quote from: Discobole on February 26, 2012, 03:15:10 PM
Now, who did you eliminate ?

5th : version D1, Berliner Philharmoniker, Wilhelm Furtwängler (DG, 14/5/1953)

There it is ! It progressed, not without difficulty, after the first round, but Furtie couldn't renew this performance and the fans were not that many. D1 is really, really far behind the 4 others.
That doesn't change anything to the fact this is a tremendous performance, a monument of recorded music, recorded in a single take (!) by Furtwängler. This interpretation is overwhelming, the tension never leaves the music, from beginning to end. But the blind comparison does not really correspond to this version : by comparing, you forget about tension and the slow tempo is too exotic (when it is so easily forgotten in a normal situation).
Reeditions are of course on DG, but also Tahra, which I used for its superior sound quality, and to avoid that too many among participants recognized thanks to the acoustics only ;)
Hmmm. Furtwangler has yet to impress me, despite a titanic reputation in Wagner and Beethoven. I never understood what people saw in his Beethoven (often has people raving about him), which is why I have generally stayed away from him. And here comes yet another disaster (and disaster is what I think it is, particularly with the tempo choices). I think comparing does not hurt this version any worse though. There is a lack of tension in that first clip too (which is the problem) and the same problems that are evident in that clip are magnified much more in the second. Now if you like the first clip, I imagine the second clip is even better. But I think he totally misses the boat with this one.

It will be very interesting to hear all the finalists and I will try to forget everything I head and listen to it all with a fresh ear.
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Sergeant Rock

Quote from: Discobole on February 26, 2012, 03:15:10 PM
5th : version D1, Berliner Philharmoniker, Wilhelm Furtwängler (DG, 14/5/1953)
That doesn't change anything to the fact this is a tremendous performance, a monument of recorded music, recorded in a single take (!) by Furtwängler. This interpretation is overwhelming, the tension never leaves the music, from beginning to end.

Quote from: Scots John on February 26, 2012, 03:38:34 PM
I was with Furty, proving myself to be an 'old school' listener after all.

I'm not playing the game but have read the results with interest. Fun to go back and see what people thought now that we know which is which (among the eliminations). Furtwängler's Fourth has been my favorite for over thirty years. (In fact, shortly after I joined GMG I claimed it was the definitive performance...which brought the wrath of the forum down on my head ;D )  Sorry to see it knocked out so early. And Szell's very different kind of Fourth...another long time favorite gone now   :'(

the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"


Quote from: Sadko on February 26, 2012, 03:42:56 PM

I'll have to look at Levine's Schumann then :-)

Me too!

Thank you from me also, Discobole.
I look very much forward to the next round! :)
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
— Ludwig van Beethoven


Szell's version was left out; what a pity, it was one of my favourites in the red group!
"Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." - Gustav Mahler


Thank you, Discobole!! :)

I hope to post my votes sometime during this week.
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
— Ludwig van Beethoven

John Copeland

Quote from: Discobole on February 27, 2012, 01:21:48 PM
And, for the record, here is the general ranking, updated after the second round :

6. Philharmonia Orchestra, Guido Cantelli (EMI, 5/1953) (A4, T2, 4e/6, cm 2,56)
7. Berliner Philharmoniker, Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Teldec, live 1/1995) (B1, T2, 3e/5, cm 3)
8. Philadelphia Orchestra, James Levine (RCA, 1978) (C1, T2, 4e/5, cm 3,07)
9. Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell (CBS, 12/3/1960) (C2, T2, 5e/6, cm pondéré 3,09)
10. Svenska Kammarorkestern, Thomas Dausgaard (BIS, 2009?) (B3, T2, 6e/6, cm pondéré 3,33)
11. Berliner Philharmoniker, Wilhelm Furtwängler (DG, 14/5/1953) (D1, T2, 5e/5, cm 3,5)
12. New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (Columbia/Sony, 1960) (D2, T1, 3e)
13. Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (EMI, 4/1957) (D3, T1, 4e, cm 3)
-. Boston Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf (RCA, 1963) (B4, T1, 4e, cm 3)
15. Staatskapelle Dresden, Herbert von Karajan (ORF/DG, live 13/8/1972) (A3, T1, 4e, cm 3,25)
16. Orchestre révolutionnaire et romantique, John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv, 1997) (C4, T1, 4e, cm 3,43)
17. London Symphony Orchestra, Karl Böhm (ORF/Andante, live 10/8/1975) (B5, T1, 4e, cm 4)
18. Wiener Philharmoniker, Leonard Bernstein (DG, live 1984) (C5, T1, 4e, cm 4,14)
19. Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Runfunks, Rafael Kubelik (RCA, 18/5/1979) (D4, T1, 4e, cm 4,6)
20. Tonhalleorchester Zürich, David Zinman (Arte Nova, 10/2003) (A2, T1, 4e, cm 5)

Excellent Dicobole, you are conducting this study with commendable detail.  What a shame Furty is at 11.  Some people just don't know good music played brilliantly when they hear it...  :P  I will tune in to what IS being heard with what you've sent us.  Thanks again.


Quote from: Discobole on February 28, 2012, 08:17:36 AM
Don't mention it, I'm just interested ;D

Oh, by the way, anyone can still participate in the finals, if new participants want to join ! 8)

Please count me in. :)

I see a few I like amongst the drop-outs: the live Harnoncourt and I recently got Kubelik and liked that as well. Still, no sign of Sawallisch yet... ::)



Quote from: Discobole on February 28, 2012, 08:17:36 AM
Don't mention it, I'm just interested ;D

Oh, by the way, anyone can still participate in the finals, if new participants want to join ! 8)

Very well! I love your methodology. My ears are primed.


On vinyl, I have rec.1974  Kubelik/Berlin Philharmonic on DG -
but I found the complete symphonies set by Chailly/Gwandhavsorchester in a used book store cheap and grabbed it.
When, a few months before his death, Rachmaninov lamented that he no longer had the "strength and fire" to compose, friends reminded him of the Symphonic Dances, so charged with fire and strength. "Yes," he admitted. "I don't know how that happened. That was probably my last flicker."


Jens, if you don't mind, would you please put all comments (even the symmetric one you posted) related to the specific samples in white so that the rest of us who haven't listened yet won't be influenced? :)

mc ukrneal

Quote from: jlaurson on February 29, 2012, 03:00:59 PM
The order in which I listen to the various movements of each performance (so far I've been working one movement at a time) seems to have a considerable influence on how I like them.

Anyone else found that (the general order thing, not the specific example) to be the case, too? 
I have a different approach. I think it's important to hear the clips in the context they were meant to be heard, so I will not start with direct comparisons of clips, but rather listen to the clips for each version in order. I think it is important to hear the artists' decisions within the context of the whole. After I have gone through them all, I will almost certainly start comparing the same moments across the clips (especially since I already know all the versions are interesting in some unique way, having participated in the previous round). I have also decided that I will try to listen to each set of clips (from each conductor/orchestra) on a different day (or at least not back to back) in order to let each interpretation breathe. This may create more work for me later, but I would like as independent opinion as possible for each. The advantage I hope to gain is a 'feel' for each version and better insight into the reasons they made certain decisions and how they inter-relate. This will help me determine if the whole is better than the sums of the parts or not (which is something I feel we should strive to capture when we compare like this).   

But I digress. The order can influence your opinion to some degree, I would agree. Yet the 'best' version should still stand out. And in any case, this is part of our job as the evaluator to try to recognize why one version works better than another. In fact, this becomes an opportunity to comment on some aspect of the playing/interpretation. In the end, I am less intersted in the order that people choose, but rather their reasons for doing so. Some of the comments have been very effective - whereby I read them and can tell whether I will like a version or not (regardless of whether the poster liked them or not - and often I come to the exact opposite conconclusion based on their evidence, because I have different priorities in listening).
Be kind to your fellow posters!!


This was quite a different experience for me, I see now I really need more excerpts to appreciate the whole work.

I understood a lot about my own criteria, and I HAVE FOUND MY LOVE. I HAVE SEEN THE FACE IN THE LOCKET, NOW I MUST HEAR THE DIVINE NAME! :)

For the overall comparison I tried to find vivid images to be able to keep all the interpretations in mind, some of them turned out to be a bit irreverent :)

Thanks a lot Discobole for this enriching experience!

My ranking is:

A5  #1
A1  #2
D5  #3
C3  #4
B2  #5


And here are my notes, in the original order


flows & breathes
power & drive, but still romantic
dramatic, passionate
sometimes rushed, needed to relax & relish

Character: The virile, ardent, boisterous, impatient, emotional young man



Good start - but then the wilful stops
very fast, but not rushed
"funny" ping-pong effect, is he taking the work serious?
Zero romanticism
a caricature
ROMANZE: A tight grip that allows no free flow, but well done.
A "romanze" it is not.
Something stretched, mechanical, hurdy-gurdy like.
SCHERZO: Again, it doesn't dance, it's exercise,
the "song-like" melody doesn't sing, but says: UP!-down-UP!-down
LANGSAM: We are supposed to see a mystery unfold, but it doesn't happen.
And then he is happy he can do jump-exercise again.

Character: Arrogant drill sergeant makes the composition jump in the yard.



Sadness. A bit "Symphonie pathétique". Drive.
Rushed - and then slowing down strangely
Inorganic tempi.
Again, an abrupt accelerando, like switched on instead of developed.
ROMANZE: More a funeral march. The "song" is very slow, and heavy.
SCHERZO: Carnival of the Animals: Elephants. It even tries to dance.

Character: The sad circus elephant.



Nice opening, but the slowness is also a bit "inflexible". A bit on the heavy side, but also earthbound and straightforward. Clarity. With longer listening I see the emotionality here too, it is not so in your face.
ROMANZE: Again a bit heavy, not so outspoken, but: tenderness within solidity.
SCHERZO: Heavy! Lament: Heavy opening = "Scherzo" of grim fate. Like above: It does make sense, it is convincing.
LANGSAM: Story is continued. I like it!
LEBHAFT: Rebellion, turmoil.
I quite changed my opinion on hearing more of the whole.

Character: The middle-aged man, controlled face, straightforward thinking, behaving rationally, with a sensitive, melancholic heart, carrying heavy weights of fate on his shoulders.



Even more fate. Very sad, more flexible, tender, and extrovert than previous A1. Very convincing & nice. Yes, also agility here. Sings. Dramatic, flows. This seems to really be able to follow the mercurially changing stream of qualities in the composition. And it does not impose anything on it, it RELEASES what is in it, rather than putting its STAMP on it.
ROMANZE: ... so many colours readily available on the palette ... It is just right.
LANGSAM: Wonderful transition ... as above, all is there!
LEBHAFT: as above

Character: The soul-mate of the composition is able to produce the full spectrum. The composition can sing through him freely, beautifully, in its full richness, without alienation.


Ranking: Do I need to re-compare? Lets see what is clear so far:

A5   #1 beyond any doubt ("The soul-mate")
B2   #5 impertinence ("The arrogant drill sergeant")
C3   #4 clear too ("The sad circus elephant")

D5 & A1    "The ardent man" versus "The controlled melancholic"? I must re-compare.

A1: The orchestral playing is of course much better. The whole thing is more polished and very clear.
No, I think, I enjoy D5, but it is:

A1   #2 ("The controlled melancholic")
D5   #3 ("The ardent man")

EDIT: I removed the white.


Just started now, and enjoying it all of course! :D

Shall either post my votes later this evening or tommorow.

I love Schumann 4 so much!
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
— Ludwig van Beethoven


Spent the last 4 hours or so listening to Schumann 4 and enjoyed every second of it! :)

Here is my vote for the final:

(notes included first though)

1)   Really moving performance of the opening. An excellent tempo, the lines perhaps could be shaped even more. Beautiful though. Great accelerando towards a brilliant tempo for the allegro. I had a few problems with the balances, but these criticisms are extremely picky and didn't affect my enjoyment too much. ;) Later on in the movement, I realise why I have a bit of problem with this performance so far. I feel that there is not enough dynamic contrast, phrasing and the balance is not always perfect, IMHO. It's just not exciting me the way it should in this allegro. The orchestra is playing beautifully however, I blame the conductor. ;) (Oh dear... it will probably turn out to be one of the greats.... ;) )
2)   Hmmm.... Same kind of problems. The playing is not warm enough for me also.
3)   Not bad. It just doesn't excite me... and I don't like the balance and dynamics, and where the hell is the phrasing, in the second lyrical melody. This is in the top 5? Maybe I'm just being too harsh... but seriously, it just seems to lack feeling.
4)   Slow, but rather powerful opening. Again, the allegro just lacks thrill and enthusiasm. Ends well I suppose. It seems that the very opening and very ending are the best parts of the performance, and what happens in between is rather dull. For me at least.

As you have guessed, I am not too enthusiastic about this performance. It lacks power, beauty, excitement and enthusiasm. I put this down to the conductor really. The orchestra plays well. There is just too little phrasing and balance in the performance. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but I was not moved and made excited by this performance. Rant over. ;)

1)   Yes... this is more like it! :D Beautifully handled opening. Gorgeous playing, with excellent phrasing, dynamics and it is played with such passion! Wonderful performance of the allegro, great tempo with brilliant playing from the orchestra, excellently controlled.
2)   Beautiful. Very lyrical playing, expressed very well. Well, listening now to the violin solo... this is excellent. Wonderful phrasing and expressive playing.
3)   Brilliant performance. Great tempo, thrilling! Ok, one of my favourite parts of the symphony, the lyrical second subject. Excellent, beautifully balanced. Too many conductors focus too much on the violin line, when in my view it should be the winds singing out the most, which this conductor allows! :) Delightful and charming.
4)   Powerful opening, very passionate and expressive. The rest is excellent and highly enjoyable.

Well, this is excellent! Close to perfect really, I found barely anything to criticise at all! Absolutely brilliant.

1)   Ooooh, another old one! I don't really mind the hissing in the background as apart from that, I think the orchestra is recorded really well. Very moving, passionate and powerful opening. Beautiful dynamics and articulations. Brilliant allegro, a great tempo choice. I love the way this orchestra play, very warm and enthusiastic with a precise attention to the detail of the articulations and dynamics. Wonderfully phrased and balanced.
2)   Beautifully expressed melody with an excellent sense of shaping and rubato. Charming violin solo, so beautiful and romantic!
3)   Thrilling tempo! Brilliant, exciting performance. The second subject is nicely phrased, and expressively played but perhaps could be just that bit more romantic. (or maybe I'm just saying that because the romantic section started playing just as Scarlet sent me a message!!!! :) :) ) And the winds need to come out more! Apart from that, I must have enjoyed this performance of the movement as I have re-listened to it quite a few times...
4)   The opening perhaps lacks a bit of momentum. The allegro that follows is perfectly fine and highly enjoyable. Wonderful ending.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. I loved the tempo choices, and the orchestra were always persuasive and enjoyable to listen to. Wonderfully balanced, phrased with great dynamic/tempo contrasts and emotional excitement.

1)   A very beautiful performance of the opening. And the allegro that follows is also brilliant, I love the excellent balance and connection between the orchestra. The lyrical theme of the movement is handled in a very lyrical way, beautiful!
2)   Rather good. Sometimes in this movement, the expression seems to be held back a little. Not in all parts though.
3)   Good tempo, could be a little more energy. What a wonderful, warm, charming trio section though. This really is some of my favourite Schumann! :) So delightful!
4)   Powerful opening. The rest of the movement is greatly enjoyable. Like I heard in the first movement and in the trio, a wonderful connection between the orchestra throughout this movement. Loved the ending too.

Overall, a good performance. In particular, the outer movements and the trio. I felt that the romanza and scherzo could have been played with more expression though. But overall, good but can't really compete with A5 or B2.

1)   Beautiful. Some unexpected dynamic contrasts which really are beautiful. Brilliant allegro, highly enjoyable, the playing is great! I am really impressed by this.
2)   Nicely shaped melody, but maybe the playing overall is not as romantic as it should be... good sense of rubato and balance though. The orchestra is not quite perfect here but still plays expressively with a wonderful warm tone.
3)   Very strong and heavy! Great tempo, with very exciting playing from the orchestra. I think the tempo changes within the scherzo work well. Balance not to my taste in the trio, but played rather beautifully. Maybe just a tiny tiny little too fast, and no rubato...
4)   Beautifully expressed and powerful opening.... very moving! Great tempo for the allegro, with very enthusiastic playing from the orchestra. Extremely enjoyable!  The whole performance uses a really expressive use of rubato, far more than any of the others. To me it really works. Great dynamics. Love the ending too, great increase in tempo.

Overall, a really great performance. I particularly am impressed and love the use of dynamic contrast and rubato. Great tempo choices, and the playing is nearly always expressive and inviting. 

So, in order:

1) A5
2) B2
3) D5
4) C3
5) A1

Really enjoyed this and am very excited to hear the results! Thank you, discobole!
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
— Ludwig van Beethoven