The recording was made digitally less than two years ago and is a marvel of wide-open realism. Hendricks is even more of a marvel: She has very few bars' rest in the 59-minute sequence, switching from narration to singing, from full voice to pinched effect or bull horn, and all the while sustaining the most enchanting level of commitment, joyous involvement and communicativeness. Everyone involved seems to be having a marvelous time, and the listener can hardly help breaking out in a smile of delight.
Since the recording was made three years after the premiere, I had hoped the portions cut in the premiere presentation (and in most other performances since then) would be restored. If they had been, though, "Final Alice" would not have fit on a single disc.
I do wish the documentation could have been as full as what Del Tredici provided for the concert performances, but there is a good deal of background, and of course the text is full. Do not miss this record. At Christmastime, by the way, it provides an inexpensive way to give something that is sure to be remembered.
For the record, "Final Alice" was performed uncut under Leonard Slatkin, with Judith Kellock as soloist, in both St. Louis and Minneapolis in 1977 and 1978. It is an independent work. "In Memory of a Summer Day," which Slatkin commissioned and introduced in St. Louis in 1980 and which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music that year, is the first of the four components of "Child Alice," whose final segment, "All in the Golden Afternoon," was given its premiere by Eugene Ormandy in Philadelphia last season.
While "Final Alice," like the music of Ravel, is so intricately written that simply (if that adverb can apply) following the composer's instructions ensures its wonderful effects, the far less complex symphonies of Robert Schumann are among the trickiest works in the "standard" orchestral repertory to bring off really well. This has less to do with Schumann's alleged or actual shortcomings in writing for orchestra than with the highly individual character and substance of these well-loved works -- the apparently contradictory elements of subtlety and impetuosity, the modification of accepted notions of form, etc.
The Second Symphony, in C major, surely the greatest of Schumann's four, is the closest to the classical norm in its structure, but no less aflame with white-heat urgency and spontaneity than any of its three sister symphonies. It has had some distinguished performances on records, and the newest is one of the most stunning accounts of any Schumann symphony to appear in some time.
Giuseppe Patane, who conducts the Hungarian State Orchestra on this disc (Hungaroton SLPX 12278), has been identified almost solely with opera heretofore, but he is certainly at home with this music. That is not to suggest that he takes a "homey" approach or in any way takes the work for granted; rather, he seems to have an evangelical zeal for the music, and has swept the orchestra along with him. The scherzo is incredibly exciting, the slow movement exceptionally moving, the whole irresistibly convincing.
The earlier of Rafael Kubelik's two recordings of this symphony, the one with the Berlin Philharmonic (DG Privilege 2535.117), still strikes me as magnificent. It is less expensive than the Hungarian disc, and includes the seldom-heard overture to Schumann's opera "Genoveva" as filler. I would nevertheless urge anyone who loves this symphony -- or, for that matter, anyone who has yet to discover it -- to hear Patane.