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Schuman: Symphonies Nos. 3, 5 ("Symphony for Strings") & 8

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 28, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

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Schuman's music belongs to the era that spawned Roy Harris (his teacher), Howard Hanson, and Aaron Copland. Schuman's Symphony No. 3 is a clear homage to Harris, broken rhythms and all. The Symphony for Strings (1943) comes at a time when Schuman's voice is finally his own. What could come off as exceedingly dry is here given a performance of great depth by Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. Schuman's Symphony No. 8 (1962) is truly modern, making extensive use of atonality and creating a series of stormy images--something that never appears in the music of Hanson, Copland, or Harris. A major re-release by Sony. --Paul Cook

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Part I (Passacaglia and Fugue)
  2. Part II (Chorale and Toccata)
  3. I. Molto agitato ed energico
  4. II. Larghissimo
  5. III. Presto
  6. I. Lento sostenuto
  7. II. Largo
  8. III. Presto


Product Details

  • Orchestra: New York Philharmonic
  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
  • Composer: William Schuman
  • Audio CD (October 28, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 79 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000029XY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,445 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The three Schuman symphonies recorded here are notable for two facts. One, they are given spectacular performances by Bernstein and the Philharmonic (and I know because Schuman told me that these were first rate, and authentic). Second is that they represent the composer at the opposite ends of his career in his best form at these ends. The 3rd and 5th symphonies, written in the early 1940s, are robust, thoroughly American works but in their own, uniquely 'Schumanesque' manner. Don't look for Copland's cowboys, Hanson's Maypoles or Piston's motor music here. These are extrovert, brassy, muscular works. The 8th symphony, while also brassy, and muscular, is of a totally different stuff- dark, hard edged, extremely tense and gruff. The hidden joke is the last movement, an enormous reworking of the last movement of his 4th string quartet! The transformation from agressive chamber music into staggering orchestral music is overwhelming. This was one of the great masterworks to come out of the long series of works commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center in 1962. It is absolutely required listening for any musically literate person.
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Format: Audio CD
William Schuman is unquestionably one of the most important symphonists to have come out of America, and if you are looking for a single disc introduction to his music, look no further. The recordings are some 30-40 years old, but they sound remarkably well on this excellent transfer, and Bernstein knew just how these works should go better than virtually any other conductor. The 3rd Symphony is the best-known of the Schuman symphonies and makes a stunning impact here. The Symphony for Strings likewise receives the definitive recording here (despite some strong competition from Gerard Schwarz on Delos), and the 1970 sound is still very good. But it's the recording of the 8th Symphony which is the finest-sounding on this CD. Bernstein premiered it as part of the opening season of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1962, and this recording followed soon after. The work is in Schuman's later, more astringent and dissonant manner, but it is also a fascinating example of Schuman's propensity for putting old wine in new bottles: the last two if its three movements are reworkings (actually, "recompositions" would be the more accurate word here) of the last two movements of his 4th String Quartet of 1950, and it says much for Schuman's orchestral mastery that at no point is one aware of the music's chamber origins. Quite aside from that, however tough some listeners may find this work next to the 3rd Symphony, there's no mistaking the searing eloquence of the central, threnodic slow movement. And as for the finale, fasten your seatbelts, for the New Yorkers treat us to one of their most extraordinary displays of jaw-dropping virtuosity. A very, very important CD indeed, no question about it!
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Format: Audio CD
Having read that Schuman was an "intellectual" composer who could write a fugue, I was reluctant to buy this disc, expecting Schuman's style to be the synopsis of some stodgy, neo-Brahmsian cliche. I was a bit taken aback, then, the first time I heard the rambunctious but exhilarating Third Symphony, which is much more of a show piece than I expected. For one thing, it employs a really souped-up brass section to produce some of the most hair-raisingly massive promontories of sound. It perhaps even runs the risk of being showy at the expense of organic depth. But it's a totally distinctive and essential work for your CD collection--but don't wear it out!
The three-movement Symphony for Strings (the Fifth Symphony) is, if anything, more cultured and restrained and is no less compelling. It has been called a masterpiece and deservedly so. The sophistication of the writing is impressive enough but more important, it is a genuinely inspired and joyous work.
I must admit I wasn't that crazy about the Eighth Symphony at first. It seemed to me to recall the bad old days when "random music" and dissonance were in vogue (though not among audiences). On the other hand, in this era of pop-influenced, sugar-coated minimalism, it's actually possible to be a bit nostalgic for those days! I have concluded after several listenings that the Eighth is a rewarding piece that grows on the listener. Don't give up on it!
Bernstein was at his peak in the 1960's and his full-throated, no-holds-barred approach suits the music perfectly, capturing Schuman's passion as well as his intellect. Finally, the sound is fully worthy of the music and performances. In the big Third and Eighth symphonies, it is remarkably atmospheric but sharply etched too. The recording of the Fifth is more confined acoustically but still eminently satisfactory.
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Format: Audio CD
The Schuman third came from an era in American music when it was still possible to write works that caught the American spirit in all its brooding, magnificence. This is a work that sings in heroic terms. Bernstein gave a glowing, but steely performance that is not likely to bettered. Not music for light listening, this. But enriching in a way that is so profound and moving. To love this symphony is to expand one's musical horizons in the most satisying way. No praise could be too high for music making of this calibre. We were most fortunate to have had Leonard Bernstein as long as we did. This disc will help you understand why.
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