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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Brahms 'Third' with Subtle Direction, Great Playing and Clear, Warm Sound, 31 Jan 2007
By 
J Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations (Audio CD)
Brahms's Third Symphony has been the subject of much discussion as to whether the ubiquitous melodic and harmonic occurrences of the sequence - F A (or A flat) F - are Brahms's answer to his friend, Joseph Joachim's mottor F A E. Joachim's F A E stood for 'frei aber einsam' ('free but lonely') while Brahms's F A F presumably stood for 'frei aber froh' ('free but happy'). More likely the this symphony's alternation of F A F with F Ab F is Brahms's way of giving us harmonic complexity altering, as it does, F major with F minor. And not only does he alter major and minor he also alters how 6/8 is divided up: is it three groups of two beats, or two groups of three beats per measure? These two technical matters make up much of the symphony's fascination for musicologists. But, more important, listeners without a smidgen of musicological knowledge are also smitten by this great symphony, with possibly Brahms's most subtle discourse.

The Third had a great success at its premiere in 1883, enough so that Brahms was taken aback, worrying that he would never again be able to equal it. He rushed right into the composition of his Fourth Symphony and on its premiere his worries were allayed.

There have, of course, been many fine recordings of the Third Symphony. And many of them are available at budget prices. So Naxos doesn't necessarily have the price advantage it so often does. However, this performance is one of the better ones around, abetted by wonderfully clear sound and an intelligent, graceful and heartfelt performance led by Marin Alsop. The London Philharmonia plays beautifully here; special mention must be made of the glorious playing of the winds, the horns in particular. One seemingly can hear everything, not always the case with Brahms's sometimes bass-thick orchestrations. One can even hear the contrabassoon in its important contribution to the final movement; it is so often barely audible if at all in other recordings.

Alsop apparently has a special affinity for this symphony. Certainly her management of dynamics and tempo adjustments is superior to that in her recording of the First. In the pastoral Second which, by the way, is a superior recording, she doesn't have much opportunity to manage the alternation of dramatic and lyrical passages, but here in the Third she makes much of these contrasts. Although it is often passed over by music lovers in favor of the more consistently dramatic First and Fourth, the Third is my favorite Brahms symphony largely because of its subtle mixture of lyrical and dramatic impulses as well as its spectacularly thought-out construction which continually rewards deep study. Alsop does not let me down here. As I write this it has become one of my favorite recordings along with those of Bruno Walter, Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado.

The filler is the ubiquitous Haydn Variations, given an unexceptionable and sonically warm reading.

Scott Morrison
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent bargain Third, 19 April 2012
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations (Audio CD)
I agree with much of what the previous reviewer Mr Morrison says . I can only describe the performance as warm yet athletic never losing momentum or overstressing contrasts but just sounding " right " throughout . It is a performance that very much lets Brahms speak without any conductor imposed meaning.

I disagree with his view of the Haydn variations . It is an excellent reading with the wind playing particularly fine and much more than just a filler.

Highly recommended especially to those who do not know the symphony.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 11 July 2014
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations (Audio CD)
This is a great recording
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uhm 3.5 stars... after several listenings it sent me to Thomas Sanderling & the Philharmonia!, 2 May 2007
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Mr. DAVID Geer "Korngold Fan" (Sydney Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations (Audio CD)
I bought this since there has been much praise for the performance and even the sound. I thought however that it was only average sound for Naxos and probably better than average for performance. Yes it's light of touch and grows on you but when I dug out Thomas Sanderling with the Philharmonia ( mid 90's, probably no longer easy to find) I found Sanderling more satisfying, he uses slightly slower tempos and the Philharmonia play like angels. The sound is markedly better than Naxos (which suffers from no low notes and something approaching muddiness - do CD's suffer pressing quality problems? for only that would explain how so called experts could rate the sound of this disc so highly! i.e. my copy is tired and dull especially against the Sanderling). I do think however Alsop helps to develop your overall appreciation of the work, so in itself its a good interpretation (it does go from wow to go with no issues) and is recommendable on that score alone. Indeed it has a moment in the 2nd movement when due to her chosen tempo there is the most exquisite murmuring from the orchestra, its worth the price for that moment alone. The filler is another Brahms work that is deceptively difficult to do well and if anything I think this straight forward performance achieves as much if not more satisfaction than the main work. 3.5 stars overall, 3 for sound and 4 for performance. A Naxos bargain of course and qualified recommendation especially if you have yet to get another Brahms 3. (I got the Sanderling 4 Symphony set at bargain price in Germany)!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good present, 27 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations (Audio CD)
bought this for my aunty who knew exactly what she wanted so she was well chuffed with this product and thoroughly enjoyed
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Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations
Brahms: Symphony 3; St Antoni Chorale Variations by London Philharmonic Orchestra (Audio CD - 2007)
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