Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

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Brahms or Schumann symphonies (all four)

Brahms
26
65%
Schumann
14
35%
 
Total votes: 40

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Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Lance » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:12 am

Perhaps a bit unfair, because I love the symphonies of both equally. But if you HAD to be on your desert island with the four symphonies of ONLY ONE composer, which one do you vote as being the set you would take? You can only vote once and you must vote! Just take a moment to think about it, but think about it quickly and vote! :mrgreen:
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Jared » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:50 am

blimey, I think that Ken and Jack must have got in here early... I simply can't believe that wehen I arrived, Schumann was 3-2 up in this poll!! :shock:

Don't get me wrong, I like Schumann's symphonies, and the recent purchase of Sawallisch's set has enhanced my view of them, but for me, they simply aren't in the same league as Brahms'.. it would be a bit like an FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Ipswich Town... :wink:

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Jack Kelso » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:43 am

Jared wrote:blimey, I think that Ken and Jack must have got in here early... I simply can't believe that wehen I arrived, Schumann was 3-2 up in this poll!! :shock:

Don't get me wrong, I like Schumann's symphonies, and the recent purchase of Sawallisch's set has enhanced my view of them, but for me, they simply aren't in the same league as Brahms'.. it would be a bit like an FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Ipswich Town... :wink:
It all depends on where your personal emphases lie. If you prefer the somewhat less dissonant and intense works in this form then probably Brahms is your man.

For originality and harmonic/melodic invention Schumann has a slight edge.

If Schumann's symphonies aren't "in the same league" as Brahms'....then neither of their symphonies are in the same league as those of Bruckner or Mahler.

One would have to discern in what WAY the Schumann works are NOT in the same league as those of other composers (or Brahms). I love all EIGHT----and my musical enjoyment is so much the richer for it! (Quote, Encyclopedia Americana: "Schumann's symphonies are generally regarded as the most important works of their kind since the time of Beethoven....").

Tschüß,
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by absinthe » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:39 am

Jared wrote:blimey, I think that Ken and Jack must have got in here early... I simply can't believe that wehen I arrived, Schumann was 3-2 up in this poll!! :shock:

Don't get me wrong, I like Schumann's symphonies, and the recent purchase of Sawallisch's set has enhanced my view of them, but for me, they simply aren't in the same league as Brahms'.. it would be a bit like an FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Ipswich Town... :wink:
But, you see Brahms was no adventurer. He was a bureaucrat who had to keep in with Vienna’s haute bourgoisie to ensure he'd stay on the
parties’ A-list. That’s why he’d do things like nod off while Liszt was playing – something that the Liszt-hating Hanslick probably found hilarious.

Brahms could write pretty tunes but needed a vehicle in which to embed them. Rumour has it (no factual evidence offered, however ;) ) that he was sniffing round Beethoven’s dustbin one day, found the template of the Eroica Symphony and nicked it, thinking “good stuff!”.

But he also knew it would be extremely difficult to top the Eroica (let alone Beethoven’s 9th). He struggled for about 20 years to get his first symphony as ‘perfect’ as he could. You can feel the misery and doubt in its opening bars. Originality be stuffed, he didn’t want Hanslick spitting venom at him. He knew how to get his bread buttered the thickest and needed to preserve his conservative patronage.

He pushed neither symphonic composition nor orchestral technique forward at all. Schumann was more adventurous. He composed from the heart, not the procedure manual.

;)

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by val » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:45 am

I prefer Schumann's Symphonies 1 & 2 to those of Brahms. Regarding the 3rd and 4th I prefer Brahms.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by stenka razin » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:59 am

As much I love the Schumann Symphonies, I would have to choose the Brahms. He is my favorite composer, so the choice was easy for me. 8)
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by RebLem » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:02 am

I'm voting for Brahms, though I would most greatly miss the Schumann Rhenish.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Ted Quanrud » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:26 am

A very reluctant vote for Brahms. I would greatly miss Schumann's 3rd and 4th. Perhaps we can pretend they are one and the same composer -- Jobert Schuhms or Robannes Bramann -- and take all 8 symphonies to our desert island.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:33 am

Brahms. The craftsmanship of his four symphonies is in a different league than than that of Schumann. I find it amusing that Brahms is being characterized as derivative and unoriginal. The rhythmic and harmonic innovations Brahms achieved once prompted Schoenberg to write an article entitled, "Brahms the Progressive." The strict forms he adhered to make it easy to characterize Brahms as an arch-conservative, but that's a superficial way to view the matter.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Fergus » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:47 am

Brahms :D

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:00 am

ContrapunctusIX wrote:Brahms. The craftsmanship of his symphonies are in a different league than Schumann. I find it amusing that Brahms s being characterized as derivative and unoriginal.
Yes; might say the same of Bach ; )

An easy vote for Brahms, who I do not believe yields any harmonic or melodic 'edge' to his esteemed elder Schumann.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by rwetmore » Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:58 am

Schumann
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by piston » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:03 am

Brahms for me too.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by josé echenique » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:08 am

Lance wrote:Perhaps a bit unfair, because I love the symphonies of both equally. But if you HAD to be on your desert island with the four symphonies of ONLY ONE composer, which one do you vote as being the set you would take? You can only vote once and you must vote! Just take a moment to think about it, but think about it quickly and vote! :mrgreen:
This reminds me of Sophie´s Choice!!!! :shock:

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by piston » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:08 am

Three thousand hits for "Brahms + Symphony" on amazon, 1400 for "Schumann + Symphony."
I'm not trying to influence the vote. Just saying.... :mrgreen:
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Jared » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:18 am

^^^ and once 'Schumann year' has passed, it will return to the normal 3000 : 300 ratio, I'm sure... :wink:

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by maestrob » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:04 am

Brahms for me. Far more musical depth than Schumann, who I also love. However, the choice of Brahms is a no-brainer. He didn't need metronome markings to explain what he wanted: it's right there in the music.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by slofstra » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:16 pm

Brahms, without question. There's just way more on the table in a Brahms symphony. He also wins in concertoes, but Schumann wins handily in the keyboard department and also in lieder. I think Schumann displays greater musical intuition and inspired genius than Brahms. But a symphony also requires a great deal of blood, sweat and tears.
But it's great that we have both. Another question that occurred to me would be choosing between Beethoven's 9 symphonies versus Brahms and Schumann combined. I don't think I'd even want to choose.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:51 pm

slofstra wrote:. . . but Schumann wins handily in the keyboard department and also in lieder. I think Schumann displays greater musical intuition and inspired genius than Brahms.
Oh, I don't know, Henry. I've been immersed in the Opp. 116-119 lately.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by slofstra » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:58 pm

karlhenning wrote:
slofstra wrote:. . . but Schumann wins handily in the keyboard department and also in lieder. I think Schumann displays greater musical intuition and inspired genius than Brahms.
Oh, I don't know, Henry. I've been immersed in the Opp. 116-119 lately.

Cheers,
~Karl
I haven't listened to Brahms keyboard music as much as Schumann, but I wonder if he could surpass the Davidsbündlertänze, Kinderszenen, Carnaval etc. etc.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:06 pm

(Quote, Encyclopedia Americana: "Schumann's symphonies are generally regarded as the most important works of their kind since the time of Beethoven....").
Once again you feel the need to back up your claim with Scholars and Musicologists, maybe I should start quoting hairdressers when I feel the need to back up my negative opinion of Sir Simon Rattle.... :lol:
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by StephenSutton » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:34 pm

Schumann. Technical and compositional issues aside, they are just NICER to listen to! :)
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:08 pm

As I cast my vote, I note it's Brahms:Schumann = 2:1

That's about right. :)

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Lance » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:13 pm

Very, very interesting comments! I hope they keep coming. While I selected Schumann myself (the height of Romanticism), I could not live without Brahms' symphonies. My personal favourites are Nos. 1 and 4, probably the same numbers for Schumann's though No. 4 was really not No. 4 in order of composition. It just happened to be published last. But then who would not want Schumann's 3rd (Rhenish) or Brahms' 3rd? Both Schumann and Brahms second symphony seems to be among the symphonies placed lastly by most, for whatever reason.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by stenka razin » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:23 pm

Lance wrote:Very, very interesting comments! I hope they keep coming. While I selected Schumann myself (the height of Romanticism), I could not live without Brahms' symphonies. My personal favourites are Nos. 1 and 4, probably the same numbers for Schumann's though No. 4 was really not No. 4 in order of composition. It just happened to be published last. But then who would not want Schumann's 3rd (Rhenish) or Brahms' 3rd? Both Schumann and Brahms second symphony seems to be among the symphonies placed lastly by most, for whatever reason.
Lance, now that is quite fascinating and perplexing CMG news........The 2nd Symphonies of both composers are my favorites of their Symphonies...........Really..........! 8)


What could be more thrilling than the ending of the Brahms 2nd or more majestic than the final moments of the Schumann 2nd?....... :D :D :D :D
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by absinthe » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:25 pm

StephenSutton wrote:Schumann. Technical and compositional issues aside, they are just NICER to listen to! :)
Absolutely. I have to turn Brahms' 4th off after the 3rd movement, unable to cope with that awful passacaglia/chaconne, whatever it is. It's awefullness is matched only by the opening of the 1st, that menacing, baleful uprising from the larval depths. Something about its connection to a fat, heavily bearded, pompous perv does seem quite apposite, though.

Not the sort of thing I'd want to hear, were I stranded on Bora Bora (ok, not a desert island but I wouldn't mind being stranded there for a while)!
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Jared » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:32 pm

StephenSutton wrote:Schumann. Technical and compositional issues aside, they are just NICER to listen to! :)
whilst I disagree Stephen, that's an argument I can respect... :)

I've got to say, I'm with Mel on this one, however... my 2 years of listening to CM have taught me thus far, that if I had to take only one set of Symphonies to a desert island, they would be Bruckner's. However Brahms is my favourite composer if I was to take into account all genres, as frequently his works touch my senses as being sublime; especially in his chamber works. I find it such a shame that Schumann is always compared to it the same breath as Brahms, because I don't find their output to be sufficiently similar to warrant this comparison. Certainly, I think Schumann to have been a wonderful composer, (and I am enjoying discovering his music more and more this year) and I tend to wonder what might have been, if he'd managed to stay in sound mental health for the duration of his life... it's desperately sad.. :(

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:10 pm

stenka razin wrote:What could be more thrilling than the ending of the Brahms 2nd or more majestic than the final moments of the Schumann 2nd?....... :D :D :D :D
More thrilling, how about Dame Simone Rattle resigning her post in Berlin, almost all Classical Music lovers would be thrilled at that news... :mrgreen:
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Seán » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:48 pm

stenka razin wrote:What could be more thrilling than the ending of the Brahms 2nd or more majestic than the final moments of the Schumann 2nd?....... :D :D :D :D
Any four bars of a Mahler symphony. :wink:
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Seán » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:50 pm

I would vote for Schumann every time. I just do not like the Brahms Symphonies and I do find the Schumann stimulating and rewarding but no, not the Brahms.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Barry » Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:22 pm

I like Schumann's symphonies very much, but I LOVE all four of the Brahms symphonies. It's the difference between very good music and great music.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Heck148 » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:25 pm

absinthe wrote: I have to turn Brahms' 4th off after the 3rd movement, unable to cope with that awful passacaglia/chaconne, whatever it is.
:shock: :shock: :shock: :roll: :roll:

:!: Amazing!! - the finale of Brahms 4th is one of the greatest symphonic movements - a splendid example of variations over a ground bass, so seamless and flowing that the listener is unaware of the wonderful journey, unless he/she is paying strict attention to the form...
Listen to Toscanini/NBC or Reiner/RoyPO for brilliant and powerful renditions of this great movement...these Maestros really knew how to deliver the goods....

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by diegobueno » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:53 pm

Schumann was no slouch, and his symphonies are quite wonderful, BUT...

Brahms represents the very pinnacle of symphonic writing. His four symphonies define what a great symphony can be. Especially the Fourth, which in my book is the greatest symphony ever written by anybody. Period. And most especially that stirring, passionate, deeply logical and profound passacaglia which brings his cycle of symphonies (and symphony writing as whole) to its apex.

Compared to Brahms, Mahler is just a little child playing with toys. (and I like the Mahler symphonies plenty)

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by slofstra » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:36 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
(Quote, Encyclopedia Americana: "Schumann's symphonies are generally regarded as the most important works of their kind since the time of Beethoven....").
Once again you feel the need to back up your claim with Scholars and Musicologists, maybe I should start quoting hairdressers when I feel the need to back up my negative opinion of Sir Simon Rattle.... :lol:
Jack was quite convincing until he brought in that Enc. Americana quote. Like many scholarly assessments it contains the requisite weasel words to avoid actually saying anything. (Note I am referring only to the encyclopedia quote, not to Jack, unless Jack worked for that encyclopedia). In this case the phrase "works of their kind" makes the claim meaningless, since "works of their kind" might mean 'works of the kind that only Schumann wrote'. And certainly it is indisputable that Schumann's works were the best of the kind that only he wrote.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Lance » Sat Jul 17, 2010 11:35 pm

Interesting that twice as many people (at this exact moment) select Brahms over Brahms's mentor, Schumann. So, it seems to be generally felt that Brahms took music to another (higher) level.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by rogch » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:22 am

Lance wrote:Interesting that twice as many people (at this exact moment) select Brahms over Brahms's mentor, Schumann. So, it seems to be generally felt that Brahms took music to another (higher) level.
I totally disagree. Brahms' symphonies may be a little better, but Schumann is better in just about everything else. I am learning to know more of Schumann's music and i am amazed again and again. I used to think that some of the Shumann fans in this forum overrated him. But not anymore. His production is unique in many was and way ahead of its time.

So why on earth should we just compare 4 works by each composer? I guess it is symptmatic for this forum these days. We talk about the symphonies and large scale works from the romantic era again and again, including its conductors. Chamber music, songs and other works on a smaller scale are much less talked about. The same can be said about music from other eras.
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:54 am

If Schumann has more musical depth than Brahms, then Mahler has more than Bruckner.

But these opinions do not stop those who believe that Tschaikowsky wrote the "greatest symphonies since Beethoven".

This question/problem will, I assume, always be with us.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by piston » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:06 am

rogch wrote:
Lance wrote:Interesting that twice as many people (at this exact moment) select Brahms over Brahms's mentor, Schumann. So, it seems to be generally felt that Brahms took music to another (higher) level.
I totally disagree. Brahms' symphonies may be a little better, but Schumann is better in just about everything else. I am learning to know more of Schumann's music and i am amazed again and again. I used to think that some of the Shumann fans in this forum overrated him. But not anymore. His production is unique in many was and way ahead of its time.

So why on earth should we just compare 4 works by each composer? I guess it is symptmatic for this forum these days. We talk about the symphonies and large scale works from the romantic era again and again, including its conductors. Chamber music, songs and other works on a smaller scale are much less talked about. The same can be said about music from other eras.
Your point about today's much greater interest in and emphasis on larger orchestral forms is well taken but I have observed that same attitude everywhere, not just here. Create a thread about art songs and it will never generate as much interest as one about symphonies. Oratorios and most choral works? Forget it! These genres tend to be the last to be visited when someone speaks of a composer's entire oeuvre. In fact, any kind of more intimate classical music is almost invariably overshadowed by the "symphony" or the "concerto" unless it is piano music and relatively greater interest to post about the latter could be a reflection of the number of practitioners and genuine experts on CMG.

Clearly, and this is illustrated by the growing popularity during the course of these two generations of composers who produced gigantic orchestral works, the audience --physical and virtual-- is always much bigger when it's big and very loud.

I wonder if all the youthful exposure to loud rock 'n roll music hasn't affected taste among classical music lovers.....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Ken » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:13 am

Sorry, Johannes, but my personal leaning is towards Robert Alexander's four... In all honesty, too, Schumann's complete orchestral oeuvre is very impressive and his symphonies must also always be considered in conjunction with the Overture, Scherzo and Finale and the great orchestral dramatic works that correspond to the time of the Rheinische and the revised Fourth Symphonies.
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:35 am

Ken wrote:Sorry, Johannes, but my personal leaning is towards Robert Alexander's four... In all honesty, too, Schumann's complete orchestral oeuvre is very impressive and his symphonies must also always be considered in conjunction with the Overture, Scherzo and Finale and the great orchestral dramatic works that correspond to the time of the Rheinische and the revised Fourth Symphonies.
You have made an excellent point, Ken. Nevertheless, I enjoy the four of Brahms just about equally as much as Schumann's four.

One of the problems still today is that the Brahms 4 enjoy a far greater number of excellent recordings than do those of Schumann. Many listeners here have recordings of the Schumann symphonies that are largely routine (Haydnesque) or instrumentally touched-up---and not performed in accordance with the Master's style/wishes (e.g., too quick tempo of the "Feierlich" mvt of the Third, coda of the finale).

Popularity contests are entertaining....but seldom bring any valuable information.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:05 am

Jack Kelso wrote:If Schumann has more musical depth than Brahms . . . .
Oh, I don't think so.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:06 am

Jack Kelso wrote:One of the problems still today is that the Brahms 4 enjoy a far greater number of excellent recordings than do those of Schumann.
Having many excellent recordings of the Brahms symphonies is no problem.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:13 am

rogch wrote:Brahms' symphonies may be a little better, but Schumann is better in just about everything else.
My time to totally disagree! : )

Indeed, I think more highly of Brahms's concerti, chamber music overall (as a performer, I vote with my rehearsal and concert time -- I go back to the Brahms sonatas with pleasure, where I am afraid the Schumann clarinet chamber music doesn't invite me), piano solo music, large-scale choral music, unaccompanied choral music. You may say that this leaves room for Schumann in Lieder, but the fact is I haven't listened much to Brahms's Lieder at all -- yet. Now that I enjoy this 60-disc box of the complete works, it's just a matter of time . . . and I shall report my findings.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:14 am

Jack Kelso wrote:Popularity contests are entertaining....but seldom bring any valuable information.
True enough, Jack; though in this case, we see that the popularity is in line with professional musical consensus. Nice when that happens!

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by absinthe » Sun Jul 18, 2010 8:59 am

What on earth's a professional musical consensus? Are you struck off the register if you disagree?

It's the orthodoxy that's behind most of the problems with classical (small c) music these days.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:09 am

slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
(Quote, Encyclopedia Americana: "Schumann's symphonies are generally regarded as the most important works of their kind since the time of Beethoven....").
Once again you feel the need to back up your claim with Scholars and Musicologists, maybe I should start quoting hairdressers when I feel the need to back up my negative opinion of Sir Simon Rattle.... :lol:
Jack was quite convincing until he brought in that Enc. Americana quote. Like many scholarly assessments it contains the requisite weasel words to avoid actually saying anything. (Note I am referring only to the encyclopedia quote, not to Jack, unless Jack worked for that encyclopedia). In this case the phrase "works of their kind" makes the claim meaningless, since "works of their kind" might mean 'works of the kind that only Schumann wrote'. And certainly it is indisputable that Schumann's works were the best of the kind that only he wrote.
Henry's quarrels with the Enc. Am. remark are well taken.

I have spoken generally of a consensus which ranks Brahms's symphonies higher than Schumann's. The first book I pluck off the shelf is a W.W. Norton publication, The Enjoyment of Music by Jos. Machlis. On the one hand, a book not particularly scholarly in design (but then, my point is a matter of finding indications of a consensus). On the other, it is a W.W. Norton publication, and Machlis was (is?) professor of music at Queens College of CUNY. Without laboring the point, this is a general publication written by not an amateur enthusiast, but by a qualified teacher, and issued by one of the most reputable music publishers. Not sacred writ, but something of a bellwether.

On p. 82 (I have a copy of the 1977 fourth edition) we read:

Machlis wrote:Thoroughly Romantic in feeling are the four symphonies. Schumann has been taken to task for his inability to develop thematic material and for his occasional awkwardness in orchestration. Yet the best of his symphonies, the first and fourth, communicate a lyrical freshness that has kept them alive long after many other more adroitly fashioned works have fallen by the way.
One can argue with his selection of "the best of his symphonies," and many of us here take it as fairly established that, in fact, there is nothing particularly "wrong" about Schumann's orchestration. But Machlis's reportage is fair: it is a fact that, historically, musicians have thought less highly of Schumann's orchestration.

Overall, the remarks show a mixed regard for the Schumann symphonies.

On p. 147, we read:

Machlis wrote:Brahms's four symphonies (1876, 1877, 1883, 1885) are unsurpassed in the late Romantic period for breadth of conception and design.
Not a direct comparison to Schumann (who was probably mid-period rather than late), but such a firm, unalloyed endorsement stands in sharp contrast to the Schumann paragraph from p. 82.

It is only a brief comment, because Machlis reserves further comment for an in-depth discussion of the Brahms F Major Symphony (pp. 148-150). So here, if you like, is as practical a 'direct comparison' as one could ask: in a music history survey designed for newcomers to Classical Music, Machlis includes a Brahms symphony, not a Schumann symphony (the Schumann examples included are a pair each of songs and piano miniatures).

Just a snapshot of consensus at that time, if you like. But, it is consistent with professional musical opinion from practically the two composers' own day; and I am not aware of any dramatic reversal of the tide of consensus, over the past 30 years.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by josé echenique » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:21 am

Lance wrote:Very, very interesting comments! I hope they keep coming. While I selected Schumann myself (the height of Romanticism), I could not live without Brahms' symphonies. My personal favourites are Nos. 1 and 4, probably the same numbers for Schumann's though No. 4 was really not No. 4 in order of composition. It just happened to be published last. But then who would not want Schumann's 3rd (Rhenish) or Brahms' 3rd? Both Schumann and Brahms second symphony seems to be among the symphonies placed lastly by most, for whatever reason.
Not me Lance. Brahms´Second is my personal favourite. It´s certainly not his greatest, that´s obviously the Fourth, but the positive, lyrical Second is like Brahms Pastoral. In my experience I have heard far more live performances of the Second than of the Third, which I imagine is the least played of all.
As for Schumann´s Second I think it´s the finest of his 4.

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:54 am

josé echenique wrote:
Lance wrote:Very, very interesting comments! I hope they keep coming. While I selected Schumann myself (the height of Romanticism), I could not live without Brahms' symphonies. My personal favourites are Nos. 1 and 4, probably the same numbers for Schumann's though No. 4 was really not No. 4 in order of composition. It just happened to be published last. But then who would not want Schumann's 3rd (Rhenish) or Brahms' 3rd? Both Schumann and Brahms second symphony seems to be among the symphonies placed lastly by most, for whatever reason.
Not me Lance. Brahms´Second is my personal favourite. It´s certainly not his greatest, that´s obviously the Fourth, but the positive, lyrical Second is like Brahms Pastoral. In my experience I have heard far more live performances of the Second than of the Third, which I imagine is the least played of all.
As for Schumann´s Second I think it´s the finest of his 4.
The Second was the last of the Brahms symphonies for me to 'warm' to; I like it now a great deal. I have too long an attachment to the Third and Fourth for either of them to be 'displaced', but I do think more highly of the Second than of the First. Just saying . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by maestrob » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:10 am

I am fascinated by the complexity of the First, drawn to the pastoral quality of the Second, mesmerized by the finesse of the Third, and deeply respect the technical mastery of the Fourth.

I refer to Brahms, of course.

Brahms plumbed the depths and reached the heights of symphonic composition, and should be studied by every aspiring composer. Remember, he did this all without a single metronome mark. Remarkable!

Interstingly, nobody comments that, even with the change in instrumental timbres from then to now, any changes should be made in orchestration.

Szell famously rewrote the Schumann symphonies in his masterful recording of 1958, Roy Goodman and others have turned back the clock and made original instruments renditions of the Symphonies, yet none of that has been done with Brahms. Perhaps, methinks, Brahms had this quality of vision which Schumann lacked? :wink:

It is true (for me) that Schumann's symphonies, played on original instruments in their original scoring, have a certain attractive pungency that doesn't carry over into modern performances.

I only ask the question to stir up controversy, pointing out that I know well that Schumann's symphonies work very well with a modern ensemble (Solti/Vienna or Sawallisch).

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Re: Brahms vs. Schumann: 4 Symphonies (only)

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:26 am

karlhenning wrote: The Second was the last of the Brahms symphonies for me to 'warm' to; I like it now a great deal. I have too long an attachment to the Third and Fourth for either of them to be 'displaced', but I do think more highly of the Second than of the First. Just saying . . . .
I find myself in the same boat. The 3rd and 4th have mesmerized me since the first time I heard Brahms as a youth. Only more recently has the 2nd become a point of interest for me, but like you, I now enjoy it very much. I've always liked the 1st, but that is a composition which resembles Beethoven a little too much, in particular the Finale, which was of course dubbed "Beethoven's Tenth" shortly after its premier (was it von Bulow that coined the term, or Hanslick? I cannot remember). Conversely the 3rd and 4th strike me as two examples of a fully mature Brahms writing two complete symphonic works in what was distinctly his own fully-formed language, which I can't quite say about the 1st or 2nd, as much as I enjoy them.

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