Author Topic: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4  (Read 10315 times)

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Discobole

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Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« on: February 19, 2012, 10:08:10 AM »
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« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 01:13:30 PM by Discobole »

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012, 11:11:11 AM »
Sure. I know this one better anyway.
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2012, 11:31:05 AM »
Definitely count me in. I love this piece a lot.
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DavidW

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2012, 11:43:52 AM »
Count me in too. :)

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2012, 02:33:26 PM »
OK no problem. So there are 2 groups to listen until next Sunday at midnight (Paris time), but if you need a little more time it will not be a problem. One has 5 versions, the other has 6. There are 2 excerpts to listen to.

All I need is a ranking of the versions. Ex aequo is possible so you can have two firsts, or three thirds, etc. Then I'll use the Condorcet system, which will allow me to establish the global ranking (in case of Condorcet paradox, the mean ranking will count).

mc ukrneal & madaboutmahler, you are in the yellow group (5 versions).
DavidW, I put you in the red group (6 versions).
You'll receive the informations in a few minutes by pm.

If you have time I can give you the other group too, of course, just tell me.

You will hear very important differences of sound quality, due to the age of some of the interpretations. Please try as much as possible to judge the quality of the playing and of the interpretation, and not only on audiophile criteria ;) If Bernstein, Karajan and others were eliminated in the first round, it is not by mere chance, I guarantee you great surprises !

Anyone can join the listening until results are published. For that second round, until next sunday, then.
Please send both. Thanks! Should be fun!
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Offline Lisztianwagner

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2012, 02:51:47 PM »
Quite violent and full of surprises...quite right, how many beautiful recordings were left out! ;D
This thread sounds very funny anyway, you can count me as well.
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 04:14:51 AM »
I was very excited to do this comparison as Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 is a favorite. And so below are my results. I will do the red group too if I have time later in the week. Not sure how others are writing this up, but I put my thoughts down as I went along. I did go back for a couple of comparisons. But mostly, this is from one listen. I gave each clip a rating (mostly just for my memory) and used that to come up with a ranking.

Yellow Group Summary:
I liked C3 and A5. Those two should make it to the next round. I would eliminate the other three. In particular, D1 should be eliminated for sure. It was terrible (poor tempo choices in the second clip). But all of them had something different that they did, or some unique aspect. I think C3 was the clear leader, but I liked A5 fairly well too (and I loved the sound this orchestra produced). Interesting that I did not like any of the ones that appear to have come in first in previous rounds (if I understood correctly).

A5-e1:
Very nice opening and sound. But a hair slow, which is not the bigger problem. It seems to lack forward momentum just a bit and this makes it a bit more laid back, but playing is of high quality. The speed up in the middle section lacks something and again we are too laid back (not enough forward propulsion). Perhaps you think I am overemphasizing this, but I feel it makes this a difficult one to fully embrace (though I like the sound they produce very much). Rating: 6.
 
A5-e2:
Speed slower than I like (always a litmus test for me).The forward propulsion is better though still a bit too much back on the heels. Good unison playing.  Fourth movement sounds much better. Stately. Too controlled at times, but I liked the sound of the woodwinds. Dynamics are better here for the most part.  I liked this movement. Rating: 7

Overall: Very good standard of playing. I think the speeds, while not always to my taste, would work better if there was more of a forward propulsion felt (which is admittedly better in the second excerpt). The playing is excellent overall  and I like the sound the orchestra produces, so I really think the issue here is one of interpretation, and less of execution by the orchestra.  Dynamics could have more abandon, but then perhaps this is what gives this version more stateliness.

Ranking: 2

B1-e1

Nice start. Here is what the first lacked in terms of propulsion. Dynamics are, well, more dynamic! Horns are slightly out of tune towards the end of the clip. Rating: 6.5

B1-e2
Better tempo, but some weird acoustic effects going on early. A bit ragged in moments, sometimes a problem in versions that go fast. And then when it slows down, it is a bit dull. And then back to main theme – I feel that some of the magic has been lost somewhere in the quieter bits. Then they do the cardinal sin – start the big melody in the fourth movement fast – then slow down as you go along. The next part is too undifferentiated compared to the opening  of the movement.   Rating: 4

Overall: I liked the execution until the middle of the second excerpt, where this one just self-imploded, but I preferred the sound of the orchestra in A5 much more. The inability to hold the tempo in the opening of the fourth movement is a huge problem. A5 was better here - noticeably so. I think the orchestra is generally not as good as the first in this instance and I bet that would be more visible in a comparison of the entire piece.

Ranking: 3

D1-e1
Ok. Older sound. Glad I took a short breather to allow it to differentiate a bit. Nice impact at the opening - much more dynamic approach to loudness here.  Speed up is well done, but then the tempo is a bit slower than I like, but the feeling of moving forward is there nonetheless. But then the middle section is a bit dull in terms of dynamics and feels a bit wearing (perhaps related to sound, but they did it earlier, so I have to think it is not entirely so). But then it picks up again towards the end of the clip. Rating: 5

D1-e2
My god!  A glacier would move faster than the opening of this! Awful. Terrible! Dull as can be and labored beyond belief. The orchestra plays decently enough, but who would want to listen to them? A complete disappointment. And then the section after the opening is even worse, because they don’t feel differentiated enough (too uniform a sound).  Fourth movement is better, but the magic is long gone. Rating: 1.5

Overall: Starts ok, but the second clip is a disaster of major proportions. The whole piece loses coherence and momentum.   

Ranking: 5

C1-e1
Decent opening. A better overall balance or dynamics, articulation, etc. in the early parts, but that seems to lessen as the work progresses.  Strings seem a bit awkward at times. Shame, because this could otherwise be outstanding. Rating: 5.

C1-e2
Tempo good, but the sound is congested and not open – probably a balance issue among the instruments (though perhaps a sound issue as well). Interpretation is better in terms of tempo/impact/drive.  But the conductor does not seem to pull quite the same level of majesty that some of the others do. And then they really speed up! Ach, but they go so fast to start that there is no way they can hold the tempo.  Rating: 4

Overall: There are some nice bits. But the overall impact is less than the sum of its parts. And the orchestral playing as a whole is less varied and less interesting.

Ranking: 4

C3-e1

Even with the hiss, this one grabs your attention more than the others at the start.  This is the way the start should be played. Don’t know if they will keep it up, but here’s hoping so. Great intensity (though a moment of ragged playing as they sped up)!  It had great clarity, good movement, and uses the dynamics in a way completely advantageous to the music. Very interested to hear who this is (orchestra plays very well indeed). Thrilling.  Rating: 9

C3-e2
Speed is good to start.  Too bad this wasn’t in better sound to make a better impact, but still good. Slower parts are still dramatic and do not lose your attention.  Fourth movement is a rousing start.  Rating: 7.

Overall:  The interpretation was excellent. The orchestra was tight. Of these five, in these clips, this was my top choice.

Ranking: 1
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2012, 09:22:01 AM »
Listening to the 'yellow group' now. Really enjoying myself and remembering how much I love this piece!

Could you also send me the red group as well please? I should have time to post the yellow votes this evening, and the red votes tommorow.

Thanks again. :)
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2012, 09:32:00 AM »
Listening to the 'yellow group' now. Really enjoying myself and remembering how much I love this piece!

Could you also send me the red group as well please? I should have time to post the yellow votes this evening, and the red votes tommorow.

Thanks again. :)
Very intersested to hear your opinion of the yellow group, having already posted mine. I won't get to the red group until later in the week, but I think I will be able to post on them as well. Really interested to see how our opinions will compare to the other forum too.
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2012, 09:36:37 AM »
Very intersested to hear your opinion of the yellow group, having already posted mine. I won't get to the red group until later in the week, but I think I will be able to post on them as well. Really interested to see how our opinions will compare to the other forum too.

Thanks Neal - I'll probably be finished and ready to post my vote in around half an hour. On B1 at the moment. Looking forward to reading your vote which I see you have already posted, but I shall not read just yet. ;)

I'm enjoying this so much. Love this symphony.
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Offline Lisztianwagner

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2012, 09:37:42 AM »
The excerpts are FLAC files, yesterday I downloaded a programme to open them; I will provably listen to those pieces this evening, I adore Schumann No.4 very much!
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2012, 09:57:41 AM »
The excerpts are FLAC files, yesterday I downloaded a programme to open them; I will provably listen to those pieces this evening, I adore Schumann No.4 very much!
Yellow group was all mp3. Is there a Flac in the red? I haven't downloaded those yet.
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Offline Lisztianwagner

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2012, 10:11:38 AM »
Yellow group was all mp3. Is there a Flac in the red? I haven't downloaded those yet.

No, it is all mp3 too, I've just seen; but it was rather strange, because when I clicked to download the Red group, it was pointed out as a FLAC file, but when I opened it with my programme, it didn't work; I tried again with a WinRAR programme (for mp3), and I could open it.
"Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents." - Ludwig van Beethoven

DavidW

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2012, 10:49:24 AM »
Red group is all mp3.  I played them with windows media player.

BTW I did some serious listening last night, but I won't be able to finish until tonight.  And then I'll post my impressions.

Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2012, 12:26:40 PM »
My vote:



note: Copied in my notes that I took while listening as well.

First place: A5 e1 – A rather beautiful opening, expressed well. The allegro is excellent, a very good tempo and very good balance throughout the orchestra.
A5 e2 – Thoroughly enjoyable with a good tempo choice. The performance of this movement is very successful! The second subject is played wonderfully. The opening to the finale is very powerful with a beautiful balance. So, overall, to be me, this is the best. And the one I found the least to criticise personally!

Second place: C3 e1 – Excellent tempo at the beginning but it seems to be lacking a bit in expression, to me at least. Very good allegro. I thoroughly enjoyed this orchestra’s playing, and don’t really mind the not perfect sound quality.
C3 e2 – Good tempo. Really charming, lovely second subject. Amazing start to the finale, very moving... Overall, this gets second place from me, the orchestra plays wonderfully and the tempi are excellent.

Third place: C1 e1 – Nice warm sound, but far too fast at the beginning. Excellent tempo for the allegro, exciting playing from the orchestra. Successful.
C1 e2 – Great, exciting tempo. Brilliant playing from the orchestra. Beautiful lyrical second subject, very romantic! Amazing, powerful opening to the finale, excellent brass in particular. Great lead in to the allegro, which starts in a brilliant way! Overall, third place. It could have been higher, but I found the opening too fast. The tempi were otherwise almost perfect.


the others:
B 1 – Again, the opening was a little too fast and not as expressive as the other competitors.
D1 – A really beautiful opening, but the rest was just too slow! Many excellent dynamic contrasts though, and charming moments. Still a lot to admire despite the almost dragging tempo.


Much enjoyed this and look forward to finding out the winners! :)

No problem, I'll send it right away !


Looks like I've just recieved it, thank you!
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2012, 12:40:56 PM »
Spoiler :
So, B1 is 4th and D1 is 5th ?

Yes. :)
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Offline John Copeland

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2012, 09:52:29 AM »
I am a bit late.  Can you count me in too?   :(

Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2012, 09:57:03 AM »
I am a bit late.  Can you count me in too?   :(

I knew you would, John!! Looking forward to seeing how your opinions compare to mine... :)
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Offline John Copeland

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2012, 03:42:41 PM »
 :D
Very interesting!  I had the same notion, and wrote as I listened, one listening only.  My mini reviews cover both parts of each installment (eg; C1 covers both C1 e1 & C1 e2).  I did not reference anything said on this thread for the excercise, but am delighted mc ukrneal and Daniel have approached this in a similar way.  And wow, how different can opinions be!  (Especially with A5 and D1).  Here is my prattle on the matter...

A5
It is played but not built up well enough to give it anything spectacular.  Background stuff for me.  Lacks some emphasis and clarity on string attack.  It is not speaking to me personally, but to too many folk at once.  Too 'flat' for me. Not nearly enough in its forward push. I would switch this off.  4/10

B1
More 'sectioned' than A5.  More sonority, more attractive to listen to.  Nice use of transitional dynamics.  Air conducting stuff.  A hint of mystery, but only a hint.  In the first part, instruments in the lower register (basses, cellos) audibly keep a nice undercurrent for everything to sit on. I would keep listening. Needs more character though. 7/10

D1
I like how this connects in the flow of music.  Sounds live and old, would like to hear a better recording of this.  More visceral excitement here, and romantic lightness is clear.  This is very good indeed.  Very much to be listened to if it were better recorded.  Nice build ups and drop offs. Loads of character.  Slower tempo than the others, but this adds to its force. I would keep listening for sure. In fact, I want it.  9/10


C1
A 'big' treatment.  Modern instruments discernable.  Lush romanticism. Nice accelarando. Well done but too bossy.  Sometimes the playing dominates the music, but it's beautifully played. Faster than D above, but the conductor is capturing the music fully.  A contender in the 'heavyweight' category! 8/10


C3
Seems to get better as it goes along - takes a couple of minuites before it really starts telling me it has something to say, but when it does, we are in full flow and boucing along nicely, although lacking in character.  I would not consider switching this off, but may see if I could find something that talks to me from the start. Quite good. 7/10

Ranks from first to last:
D1  First
C1
B1 and C3 (=)
A5  Last


I am very interested to see which conductors and orchestras are involved in these.  How dramatically and sometimes diametrically opposite our enjoyment of different interpretations are.  I am a fan of this idea.  Merci beaucoup Discobole.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 03:45:02 PM by Scots John »

Offline John Copeland

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Re: Blind comparison : R. Schumann, Symphony no. 4
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2012, 04:23:31 PM »
Thanks ! Would you like to listen to the Reds too ?

7 participants gave their vote in the Yellow group, 5 votes are expected until Sunday. So, here are the trends...

Two versions (A5 and C3) are perfectly even at the first place. Nearly everyone put each of these among their first three (except one 4th place for C3 and one 5th place for A5). The mean ranking of these two is exactly the same too. It it stays that way, they will both be qualified for the finals.

Behind, we have another perfect equality between B1 and C1. But each of these versions could still progress to the finals, as the votes are still very close.

If we stay with that closeness between versions, the elimination will be complicated to determine. I have not already decided if the finals will be a selections of 4, 5 or 6 versions, everything depends on how close the versions are in this round : either I qualify the 2 best of each group, or the 3 best, or the 2 best + the best of the 3rds. I hope this is clear.

D1 is, on the contrary, quite certainly already eliminated. And this elimination will be SHOCKING ;) .


That elimination WILL be shocking as it is my favourite of the lot.   :( >:(