This is one occasion when another reviewer (Mr. Lipscomb) has written exactly what I wanted to say. Kertesz gives fresh, energetic readings of both Brahms Serenades, the first of which is among his sunniest works, while the second is more inward, even sombre (Brahms scored it without violins, which considerably darkens the timbre). Stokowski has a wonderful, unmannered Serenade #1, but Kertesz is a shade more vibrant. For some reason these two lovely works haven't been terribly successful on records. Bernstein made a very good Serenade #2 during his NY Phil. days, but among major conductors the version by Tilson Thomas is lackluster, with only Haitink outdoing Kertesz in vitality. Boult has his moments but often rushes the tempo badly. Abbado's versions are out of print unless you buy his complete Brahms orchestral cycle (I haven't heard the performances in a long while, but the very early recording of the Serenade #2 was greeted warmly, I believe). Which leaves this CD, played beautifully by the Vienna Phil. yet recorded in rather glaring sound. No matter, it's a very satisfying listening experience, one to brighten up any cloudy day (a rare thing to say about Brahms).
P.S. - Since writing this review I've heard both Serenades performed by Abbado and Haitink, and I feel that the Haitink ranks as the top choice for this pairing. Abbado is also quite fine, on a par with Kertesz, but his performances are hampered by DG's hard-edged digital transfers.