Homage to Robert Schumann

Homage to Robert Schumann concert. Daniel Harding conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden with the MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig (Chorus Master Howard Arman), bartione Markus Butter, as well as Ole Kottner, Franz Lindner, Sebastian Dominik Pfeifer, and Vincent Hoppe, boy soloists of the Dresden Kreuzchor. The concert was performed in the Frauenkirche Dresden in 2010 as part of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann. The  program (running 77 minutes) is:

1. Schumann Overture to the opera Genoveva

2. Schumann Scherzo in G minor from the Symphony Fragment in C minor

3. Schumann "Amendmusik" in B flat minor

4. Friedrich Hebbel "Nachlied" for Choir and Orchestra

5. Schumann Requiem für Mignon for Choir, Solo Voices, and Orchestra

6. Schumann Symphony No. 3 "Rhenish"

Rereased 2010, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.   Grade: D

The Frauenkirche is a huge, high cylinder topped by a dome. There is a cutaway on the "back" for the alter, choir, and organ. The interior is stone and plaster decorated in "modern baroque" style. Many spotlights brightly illuminate the alter and the floor in front of the alter where a temporary stage was installed. It's a startlingly beautiful scene. But there must be a lot of reverberation in that space. Getting recording mikes in place must have been a problem. And that problem was maybe not completely solved, because it sounds to me as if the winds in the orchestra tend to drown out the strings and the singers. 

The program is short and odd (because each piece is supposed to have some connection to the time Schumann spent in Dresden). The program begins with the Overture to Schumann's rarely-performed opera Genoveva. It just so happens that we have in HDVD a performance of Genoveva in full as perform in Zürich. I listened to both versions of the Overture and found that the performance by the Staatskapelle Dresden was just as good as that of the orchestra of Opernhaus Zürich.

Next on the program are two fragments left behind by Schumann that have been rescued by Joachim Draheim. Except for their connection to Dresden, these fragments would be of no interest to any one other than a Schumann specialist. Then comes an 11-minute piece setting a poem by Friedrich Hebbel to music of the orchestra and the chorus. The MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig is a highly respected organization. But this performance suggests to me that the signers in this recording were possibly semi-professional. The last of the short pieces is a setting of Goethe's poem "Requiem für Mignon" for orchestra, choir, and solo voices, including 4 boys. Here again the chorus didn't sound good to me. And including boys in a program that can be recorded only once is a high-risk proposition!

After the warmup above, the orchestra moved on to the "Rhenish." I didn't like this performance on first hearing. I then compared the Dresden take to a nice LP recording of the "Rhenish" I have by the Cleveland Orchestra. After several comparisons, my opinion of the Dresden recording improved. But I finally concluded that a weakness of the string voices in the recording reduces the singing line and coherence of the Dresden performance. Maybe the folks in the audience heard something different.

So what grade should I give to this Homage? Well, if you live in Saxony, you might want this disc for patriotic reasons. But how about the rest of us? 4 of the 5 warm up pieces probably are not worth paying for. If you have the Genoveva opera, you don't need another version of the overture from this disc. So that leaves us a mediocre recording of the "Rhenish," a symphony that is about 27 minutes long. I don't think you should buy this unless you have a special good reason, and I give it the grade of "D." I believe the Dresden folks who attended this event had an experience far better than the grade of "D" would indicate. But I doubt this recording will add enough to your collection to be worth the purchase price.