ARTS : RECORDS : NEW RELEASES
Sunday 26 February 1995
Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust. Berlin Philharmonic/Abbado (Sony, CD). The virtues and otherwise of this grand testament to German High Romanticism were laid before London audiences last autumn in a rare performance at the South Bank; and it was obvious then that nothing less than visionary commitment and outstanding soloists could do the music justice, let alone hold the necessary level of intensity across two hours' duration. Claudio Abbado's bench-mark reading here for Sony is nothing less. The orchestral sound is full and rich but never overstated; the roster of soloists features strong young voices like Bryn Terfel, Karita Mattila, Barbara Bonney, Susan Graham; and Abbado has a definite vision of the piece that compares favourably with the famous, old Aldeburgh Festival recording under Britten. To my ear it's the most impressive release of the year so far, and the most persuasive performance I've heard of a score that needs some advocacy. Michael White
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