SCHUMANN: Scenes from Goethe’s Faust CD review – deeply impressive

Gerhaher/Karg/Miles/ Bavarian Radio Choir and SO/Harding (BR Klassik, two CDs)

Andrew Clements writes: Even Schumann’s greatest admirers – and I’d count myself among them – would never claim that his choral music is the most significant or rewarding part of his output. But Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, which he worked on for a decade and completed in 1853, a few months before his final mental breakdown, is the glorious exception to that general rule. Even now, it probably doesn’t get as many performances as Schumann’s other large-scale choral work, the much more uneven and rather trite Das Paradies und die Peri, but it’s a fascinating, unclassifiable score – a loosely connected sequence of scenes that certainly is not operatic, but doesn’t fit into the mould of a cantata or an oratorio either. It culminates in what was the earliest musical setting of the challenging final scene of Goethe’s masterpiece, and which was the first part of the work that Schumann completed.

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