Brahms is not a composer hitherto identified with Valery Gergiev, and he very much puts his idiosyncratic stamp on these performances. The First Symphony, whilst losing nothing of its epic grandeur, feels lighter on its feet than normal. There are some wonderful moments - I especially liked the brass and flute passage before the "big theme" emerges in the final movement. There are many examples of superb solo playing from the woodwinds throughout the symphony. The strings play ardently and there is plenty of power when it's called for. The performance of the Tragic Overture is powerful and dramatic. The 2nd, Brahms's sunniest symphony, gets an appropriately affectionate performance. Again there are many beautiful contributions from the woodwind, especially the oboe solo in the Allegretto grazioso. The performance of the Haydn Variations is very successful, with each variation strongly characterised. The recorded sound is bright and clear throughout. These performances were recorded live in London's Barbican Hall, but I did not hear any audience "contributions".
This is a two-CD set for less than the price of a regular CD, which makes it a considerable bargain.