When it comes to richness of expression, solid orchestration and an epic quality, for me, Brahms, the protege, outdoes his early caretaker, Schumann. My feelings toward the latter's symphonies have never been more than tepid. If I'm going to find some measure of enjoyment from his music it must be presented by someone who can bring it to life, not just lay it out on a platter. The prescription calls for a spirited approach combined with some imaginativeness in phrasing. This is about the only way to bring out what color and charm resides in Schumann's symphonies. If this cannot be done, and if, simultaneously, one adheres frequently to slow tempos, the effect can be deadly. Generally speaking, Wolfgang Sawallisch accomplishes one of the better jobs I've heard in terms of keeping the juices flowing, however, while he is often lively and there is a nice fragrance to some of his melodic details, he sometimes falls into a pattern of relative blandness; for example, in the third movement of the "Spring" and the second movement of the "Rhenish". By contrast, George Szell offers greater intensity and more effective orchestral execution in his reading of the Second Symphony, although he really doesn't move me as much in the other three symphonies. Bernstein has some very nice moments in his first (N.Y. Philharmonic) set, but his later effort with the Vienna Philharmonic displays the kinds of mannerisms that came to characterize more frequently his style as he aged. It's been so long since I've listened to Karajan's Schumann that, at some point, I must return to it for an update. In closing, the recorded sound of the Sawallisch/Schumann set is very fine, and a good measure better than that given to Szell. (Incidentally, a fair number of listeners have indicated the sound in the Szell set is very fine too. To me, it is not much better than okay.) If you enjoy these symphonies, I would say that Sawallisch's interpretations are probably about your best choice.