Georg Schumann – a Post-Wagner composer?

 

This is the first time I’ve heard the music of Georg Schumann — but not the first time CPO’s released it. This recording is the fourth of G. Schumann’s music. Previously, CPO’s released his first symphony, a disc of lieder, and one of chamber music.

Georg Schumann (no relation to Robert), was the longtime director of the Sing-Akademie in Berlin and composition professor at the Prussian Academy of Arts. He enjoyed a 60-year relationship with the Berlin Philharmonic, providing musicians for choral works, and occasionally original compositions.

So what’s my impression of this then-prominent but now-obscure composer? Listening to his 1905 Symphony, the phrase “post-Wagner” came to mind. Schumann meant his Symphony No. 2 to capture the heroic spirit. He does so in a more conservative fashion than Strauss with Ein Heldenleben (written seven years before).

Strauss’ tone poem was autobiographical. Schumann’s symphony is not. Schumann’s themes reminded me strongly of Wagner without sounding derivative. Schumann masterfully develops his motifs in a way that keeps interest and dramatic tension high.

Included are two overtures that provide a nice contrast to the symphony. The 1906 Overture to a Drama is filled with sharp contrasts, keeping the listener off-balance until the very end.

The Lebensfreude overture is a jolly little work. This is the music of the operetta and Oktoberfest.

The Deutsches Symphony-Orchester Berlin directed James Feddeck does an outstanding job with this music. Schumann gives the orchestra lots to do, and they seem to enjoy every minute of it. No question — I need to seek out those other recordings. I’ve got some catching up to do.

Georg Schumann: Symphony No. 2, Op. 42
Deutsches Symphony-Orchester Berlin; James Feddeck, conductor
CPO 555 110-2

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