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Brahms: The Symphonies Box set

28 customer reviews

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Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Between 1980 and 1998, Rattle was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, then Music Director. He toured and recorded extensively with them and also conducted leading orchestras in London, Europe and the USA, enjoying a close association with the ... Read more in Amazon's Simon Rattle Store

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Audio CD (7 Sept. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,080 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. I. Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
2. II. Andante sostenuto
3. III. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
4. IV. Adagio - Allegro non troppo ma con brio
Disc: 2
1. I. Allegro non troppo
2. II. Adagio non troppo
3. III. Allegretto grazioso (Quasi andantino) - Presto, ma non assai
4. IV. Allegro con spirito
5. I. Allegro con brio - Un poco sostenuto
6. II. Andante
See all 8 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. I. Allegro non troppo
2. II. Andante moderato
3. III. Allegro giocoso
4. IV. Allegro energico e passionato

Product Description

Product Description

The name of Simon Rattle had not been closely associated with the works of Johannes Brahms so it was even more rewarding when his first Brahms recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker, "Ein deutsches Requiem", won critical accolades and both Grammy and Classic FM/Gramophone awards. Now Sir Simon and the Orchestra have committed to disc the complete Brahms symphonies, recorded in concert at Berlin’s Philharmonie in the autumn of 2008. In the words of Die Zeit, "Simon Rattle has finally dared to tackle Brahms with the Berliner Philharmoniker. He combines Furtwängler’s monumentality with Karajan’s beautiful sound."

The Brahms symphonies concerts drew praise from the German critics: "The fourth symphony was an ecstatic apotheosis of what current orchestral playing, quick reactions and scarcely sketched annotations can get out of this work which has long since become a classic. Especially the Passacaglia finale was a finely-dosed wonder of sound refinement and harmonic finesse. Rattle appears to have finally conquered his difficult Berliners."--Die Welt.

BBC Review

The music of Johannes Brahms is a beguiling mixture of lushness and lightness. Whilst his rich harmonies and orchestral timbres cry out for weighty, heart-on-sleeve syrup, there are surprisingly clear textures and vibrant melodies, reflecting his love of earlier classical repertory and of Hungarian gypsy music.

The question, then, for the Berlin Philharmonic’s new recording of his symphonies, is how such a multi-faceted musical personality will fit within their famously rich and polished sound, even allowing for the fact that 19th century German music historically represents their core repertoire. This three-CD recording generally hits all the right buttons, with the occasional disappointment counteracted by moments of pure musical ecstasy.

The Berlin Philharmonic is often unwilling to sacrifice perfection of sound in order to play rough for dramatic or musical effect, and the criticism stands for this recording. Across all four symphonies you don’t always get edge when you want it. Brahms’ writing also often calls for more sprightliness than this orchestra are prepared to give. From the opening chord of No.1, you’re hit by the velvety force of weight and sorrow, but it needs a lighter jaggedness to bring it to life. There are similar goings-on at the majestic opening of No.3, which has lost some of its turbulent forward thrust and feels more like a wade through treacle.

However, if you’re looking for Romantic depth and sheer beauty of tone, then you’ve come to the right band. In fact, there are moments where a particular theme is so achingly lovely that you almost forget to breathe, such as the golden-hued, vibrato-heavy cello of No.3’s slow movement.  Furthermore, the orchestra’s weighty tone often sounds just right; the Scherzo of No.4 may feel more triumphant than playful, but it works. With its clearly delineated, edge-of-the-seat dynamics, you know that were you to be listening to this urgent, enormous interpretation in a concert hall, the floor would be shaking satisfyingly beneath your feet.

In short, this recording absolutely delivers on Brahms’ depth and beauty, but sometimes misses his edge and pizzazz. The good outweighs the bad, though. --Charlotte Gardner

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Dec. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Amid the enthusiastic gush that greeted Brahms's earliest compositions was the hope expressed that he would `touch with his magic wand the massed forces of orchestra and chorus'. As soon as he did so, of course, his orchestral scoring was heavily criticised and likened to Schumann's. This strange perception survived even into the latter half of the 20th century. If it is not yet fully extinct, Rattle's set of the symphonies ought to finish it off for good.

If you start with symphony #1 (a very reasonable place to start) you may feel some misgivings about the recorded sound. It makes a big boomy noise, which of course is how Brahms wrote that opening sequence. However as the set progressed what I found to my relief was that despite the fullness of the tone I was hearing an exceptional amount of the elaborate detail of which these symphonies contain more than any others. Not only that, I was thrilled time after time at the beauty of the orchestral effects, credit going of course to this great orchestra and this great conductor but above all to the great master of the orchestra who conceived them in the first place. I heard the bassoon's counter-melody at the start of the adagio of #2 more clearly than I usually do, and that is important because for once Brahms does not treat it in double counterpoint (treble and bass inverted) with the main melody. I heard the same instrument at one point in #3 where I had never previously heard it at all, and above all I heard some wonderful horn sound. All four symphonies are full of Wunderhorn stuff, so I shall just highlight the trickiest effect of all, the start of #2 played without hiccups or gulps; and also the sublime ringing chime through softly lit clouds in the introduction to the finale of #1.

Tempi will be a matter of taste.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Mallett on 6 May 2011
Format: Audio CD
I have loved these 4 Brahms symphonies for more than 70 years and this recording by the Berliner Philharmoniker with Simon Rattle at the helm,
is a beauty. Rattle captures all the grandeur, warmth and passion that every bar contains and the 4th symphony springs to life like I have never
heard before. If you love these works, as I do, you will be thrilled by these performances.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Zawinulfan on 6 Aug. 2010
Format: Audio CD
Lots of specific reviews already but I just wanted to do a simple summary. A friend of mine had a theory that Rattle live was brilliant normally, but his recordings are dull. I'm a fan of Rattle and have seen/heard him in concert several times- he is usually brilliant with an astonishing communication with whichever orchestra he works with.

These recordings are not dull but(to me)they are not the definitive Brahms set. They lack the drama and intense passion that a lot of the famous and popular versions have. What you get instead is beauty in tone and sound and a very long view in phrasing. In these recordings Rattle gets the BPO to play combined phrases as long flowing arcs without the drama breaking the shape. Brahms can take this- try comparing some performances of the violin sonatas to see how it can work,Brahms - Violin Sonatas. The result of Rattle's work with the BPO is that the clarity and beauty is without parallel and you'll hear things you hadn't previously noticed but I prefer my Brahms symphonies with the punches, twists and turns of the more traditional approach. I will keep this set though, it is a refreshing new view of old well known and much loved works.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. Howard Thomas on 18 Oct. 2011
Format: Audio CD
I well remember the sheer joy I experienced in performing the Brahms symphonies as an orchestral violinist almost sixty years ago. Since then, I've listened to many live and recorded performances of the Brahms symphonies, yet here, for the first time, I find myself saying 'Yes, these performances are something we've been waiting for and thought would never come'. Forget earlier contenders, whose performances generally only serve to show how little they understand of the music in spite of their reputation. In order not to invite vindictive responses from certain quarters, I shall not name names.

Sir Simon Rattle and the BPO are to be congratulate3d in throwing away the cosy, comfortable interpretations of the past. Recording quality is very good and here surely, we hear the music as Brahms intended it to be heard. Romantic, alternating between strongly accented dynamics and cross rhythms and beguilingly sensuous, memorable melodies. True, the orchestral sound spectrum cannot compete with Berlioz, but Brahms never intended to set himself up as a competitor.

Sorry for the diatribe. Let's keep it simple: your purchase of this box may well be the best thing you've done all year.

A. Howard Thomas.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By C. Tutton on 18 Sept. 2009
Format: Audio CD
In one of the reviews below I read that Rattle's second symphony reminded the reviewer of "a forest of those new artificial trees which scientists hope will save the planet" - I thought, 'what a clever thing to say, I know exactly what they mean', even though I hadn't heard the recording. But when I actually heard the Brahms' 2nd in this set, I was astonished. It was so exquisite I simply couldn't believe it. I have never heard an orchestra play anything, let alone a Brahms symphony, with such cohesion. There are multiple rhythms being constantly moved up and over each other in all these works here by Rattle with such astounding skill, and at no point does one carriage every bump another as these masterpieces move across their immense terrain.

I have many Brahms symphony sets, the M&A Furtwängler, two Karajan's (plus a live rec.), Klemperer, some Walter, Sanderling, Celibidache, Carlos Kleiber's 4th, but overall, this set just blows me away in so many ways that the others can't. For instance, there is something both so old and so new about this new set by Rattle. It has a romance to it, which to be heard in this quality digital sound almost seems peculiar, and yet it doesn't at all sound like the other sets I own at all, it sounds distinctly like Rattle's recorded something which hasn't been done before.

Symphony 1 builds and builds until an immense finale.
Symphony 2 exemplifies perfectly both what the immense Berlin Phil can do these days as well as how much depth Rattle can give to the "Brahms sound". This is simply the best recording I've heard of this symphony, I like it even better than Bruno Walter's highly characterful recording.
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