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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chailly's Progressive Brahms
Some people think that Brahms was an unfeeling reactionary. With his beard, paunch and pipe, he certainly looks anything but cut and thrust. Schoenberg, on the other hand, called him the 'progressive'. And it's in that radical spirit that Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig perform his finest orchestral works on this new three-disc set.

Chailly puts...
Published 9 months ago by Entartete Musik

versus
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WAILING WALL OFSOUND
Everybody said this was the best thing since sliced bread (or even toast -- what a cd player that would be...)
I bought it to replace my 1970s remastered Haitink set. Performance-wise, I've no quarrel with Chailly; he stacks up well against Haitink.
But the recording is very strange.
It's as if the music is written on a large wall, without any ambience or...
Published 6 months ago by C H Ramsden


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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chailly's Progressive Brahms, 7 Oct 2013
By 
Entartete Musik (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Some people think that Brahms was an unfeeling reactionary. With his beard, paunch and pipe, he certainly looks anything but cut and thrust. Schoenberg, on the other hand, called him the 'progressive'. And it's in that radical spirit that Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig perform his finest orchestral works on this new three-disc set.

Chailly puts into action what he describes as Brahms's 'new universe of sound', the complexity of which 'is even above Mahler and Bruckner'. Certainly Chailly is keen to let us hear those layers, though he's also unstinting in delivering real emotion impact. This is Brahms the true Romantic and the proto-Modernist.

It is well known that Brahms struggled even to start his First Symphony, let alone complete it, so haunted was he by the enormity of following in Beethoven's footsteps. He eventually overcame those doubts and instead flaunted the Austro-Germanic symphonic heritage in the C minor-major dialectic of the work. Following their own recent survey of Beethoven, Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester bring fresh attack to Brahms's homage. Chailly errs on the fast, though it pay dividends. Underpinned by tenacious timpani, the first movement presents a gripping struggle.

The middle movements are naturally more relaxed, though the first movement's tenacity comes through again in the chorale in the Andante and the third movement's budding premonitions of glory. Answering that foretaste, the Finale does not disappoint. Following a full-voiced horn call - with more than a dose of Siegfried - the C major theme has both nobility and resolve (so different from Jansons' recent back-footed approach). Throughout we're treated to lavish sound and gritty determination which then boil over in a thrilling coda.

The beginning of the Second Symphony will always appear more mute than its predecessor, yet the Gewandhausorchester's performance is no wallflower. The strings bring real snap to dotted rhythms, as well as beautiful line, with exquisite woodwind solos and richly voiced brass choruses. Chailly's constant attention to dynamic detail reaps further emotional rewards, while the crescendos show the strength of purpose that was evident in the First Symphony.

That force brims to the surface again in the Adagio, pushing towards a brisker Andante, before Chailly and the orchestra offer release in the graceful-cum-spirited third movement. Upping the theatrical ante again, Chailly begins the Finale with a daring whisper, laying the groundwork for later thrills, which deliver a baroque sense of occasion.

There's equal grandness and import about the way in which Chailly opens the Third Symphony - perhaps the finest performance in the set - imbuing its string arpeggios and clarinet flourishes with real panache. But there's heart here too, coming through in the lower strings' intense minor melody. More hesitant emotions characterise the slow movement, before these again build to something more potent. Some may prefer a more relaxed reading, though Chailly's zeal is certainly infectious.

More apposite to Chailly's emotional approach is the third movement, where the orchestra delivers each suspension like a painful memory. The little breaths and hesitations in the reprise of the Allegretto particularly tell, before the forces launch into a particularly staggering performance of the Finale - all barbed syncopations and staggering trumpet salvos - boiling over with thrilling ferocity, trumping even the most conflicted passages of the First Symphony. But there's hope here too and after Chailly has driven a particularly fierce bargain, that optimism weaves through the rapt coda.

At first that tension appears to have abated in the Fourth Symphony, feeling a little on the hasty side, leaving us unsure as to whether this performance will embrace both the Romantic and the Bachian. The strings are as lustrous as in any of the other Symphonies, but you may wander whether a little more space here and the frisson Abbado brings to the return of the first subject would reap more significant insights. Here Chailly's instincts don't feel completely right.

The tenderness and emotional truths of the other performances in this set, however, emerge again in the Andante, not least in the cello's heart-on-sleeve theme, performed with great warmth. And the third movement is a real riot of orchestral colour, proffering a wonderful trigger to the Finale, where the tensions Chailly has so keenly maintained across the cycle are born out in the struggles and glories of the Passacaglia.

Here we are given both sense of purpose and something more heart-rending, building to a tumultuous conclusion. The journey undertaken on this superb new set may, of course, not be to everyone's taste. It is certainly an intense ride, favouring up-front emotion instead of a more muted commentaries. But Chailly clearly sees Brahms as a fervent Romantic and one presaging the even more torrid language of his successors.

Added to which Decca provides a 'bonus' disc featuring a rich and noble rendition of the Haydn Variations, an oh-so-brooding Tragic Overture, lilting Liebeslieder Waltzes and a handful of other beautiful performed miniatures. With Klemperer, Karajan, Abbado, Haitink and a host of other greats in the library, Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester may have serious competition on their hands, but few other sets bring the progressive and highly emotional Brahms so brilliantly to life.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious music making..., 7 Oct 2013
By 
Mr. Robert D. Roy (Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
The long awaited 'new' set of the Brahms symphonies from Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra are finally here! Having lived with them for a fortnight now I can confirm the wait has been well worth it. Of course, one takes the musical and technical virtuosity of the orchestra for granted but, here, the Gewandhaus Orchestra surpass themselves.

So what of Chailly? Well, the generic word that comes to mind regarding tempi is 'flowing'. The days of heavy, glutinous Brahms is, hopefully, a thing of the past and most 'modern' conductors such as Rattle and the younger Chailly refuse to get stuck in the mud whilst eating suet pudding after a heavy roast beef dinner!

There is also passion aplenty at climaxes, notably the first movement of the Fourth Symphony and the end of the Second Symphony. There is glory aplenty in the First Symphony with perhaps the most moving solo oboe and violin playing I have ever heard in this beautiful movement. The Third Symphony, possibly the most difficult of the four to bring to life, is here given a truly golden performance where the third movement really glows.

The 'extras' are terrific too. The 'Haydn' Variations are given lots of character (another difficult work to both play and conduct) and there are little extras such as Brahms's first thoughts to the very beginning of the Fourth Symphony. A few seconds to be sure but a tiny insight into this most meticulous of composers working methods.

The presentation is, as one would expect from Decca, first rate with excellent notes and photos. If this appeals, don't hesitate.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best allround digital version, 13 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies [+digital booklet] (MP3 Download)
As with all complete sets of symphonies, quartets, sonatas or whatever, it's usually possible to find better performances elsewhere of any individual piece. Kleiber's famous recording of the fourth with the VPO is still, I suppose, the best, and I like Harnoncourt in the second; perhaps Chailly could've taken a few more risks in the finales of nos. 2 and 3, where I miss the spontaneity of Furtwangler. Nonetheless, everything presented here is very very fine indeed, and I would say that this recording of the first symphony is probably the best on record.

On the whole, then, this is at the very least the most recommendable complete digital version. The orchestral sound is lithe, textures are incredibly clear, and the preparation was obviously meticulous. Each work unfolds in a way that leaves you in no doubt that the conductor has thought about it carefully over many years. I noticed details in the scoring that I hadn't before, or that hadn't been given their proper place in performances I'd heard to date. Yet nothing's exaggerated; there's no obvious micromanaging of the kind that can sometimes marr Harnoncourt's conducting, or any 'left of field' tempi or sonorities a la Gardiner. The detail is the result of careful thought, a virtuoso orchestra properly rehearsed, and a conductor who knows and loves the music and knows what he's doing. It's perhaps worth adding that the transcriptions of the Liebeslieder and piano pieces are hugely enjoyable too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid recording, 15 Jan 2014
By 
Mr. G. Saxby (Wolverhampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Everything was right on this recording. For the very first time for me these symphonies really danced instead of plodding. For once the orchestration didn't sound heavy, and the tempi were exactly right for the themes. It was Brahms that I heard, not some conductor's personality superimposed on Brahms.Three cheers for Chailly and the orchestra (and the engineer).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Clear modern recordings, pulse and beat perfect, revealed inner detail of the music., 13 July 2014
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
This set immediately strikes you with the following attributes:

1 There is a very powerful and beautiful distinction between loud and soft passages. In loud we get a nice clear and powerful orchestra on full charge. In soft we nice delineated spacious acoustic orchestra with distinction of the various orchestral forces in play

2 The dynamics of the recording revealed very clearly the working of the beautiful orchestral that Brahms has created. Further enhanced is the clearly engineered Decca recording, and the point of details that Chailly has fully revealed.

3 The pulse and pushing forward of the Brahms symphonies on this recordings i consider to be perfect, there is no lag, its very dynamic with constant ebb and flow.

I own many set of Brahms recordings including Karajan 60, 70 and 80s, Klaus Tennstedt Sym 1, Klemperer 1-4 and Rattle 1-4, Kleiber 4. I would rate the Chailly in front of all the whole batch, three main reasons:

1 the clear modern recordings
2 pulse and beat of the music conducted by Chailly
3 the inner detail[s] that i had not spotted on other recordings

I have not mentioned CD 3 as i have not yet listened to that.

Conclusion based on Symphonies 1-4 only.
I love this set and would be prepared to dispense with all other sets and keep this one only. It has everything going for it. I note the CD's [3] come in a booklet form package type packaging, practical and very nice.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Brahms Cycle, 31 May 2014
By 
Ali Tigrel (Ankara, Turkey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
The symphonies of Brahms are no doubt among the most loved and played masterpieces of the symphonic repertoire. These wonderful but challenging symphonies have been tackled by almost all the leading conductors. İn fact, the discography is really impressive. Fine performances abound. But what about great performances? Perhaps not too many! The Chailly set is certainly fine. All the symphonies are beautifully played. The recording quality is generally good, if not at audiophile standards. But somehow this cycle falls short of greatness. For greatness, I would turn to Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic, Sanderling with the Staatskapelle or Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic. For a truly monumental performance of the first symphony try Klemperer with the Philharmonia and for a benchmark rendering of the fourth symphony marked by an unsurpassed clarity of texture and profundity of approach try Kleiber with the Vienna Philharmonic.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lean not Lite, 2 Jun 2014
By 
Lance Edwards (derbyshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
On the basis of earlier recordings I rather rated Chailly as a perfectionist who tended to miss the wood for the trees. However, while I am still getting to know these new recordings, first impressions are that this set may be the up to date replacement for Jochum or Walter. (Like most modern conductors he keeps to a more rigid tempo than either of them.) Certainly, as an admirer of Walter's attack on the first movement of the Third, this is the first recording I have encountered which matches it. (Wand's recording of 3 and 4, recently re-released, is also fast in general but I found the recording or remastering disappointing on my equipment.) These new recordings sound outstanding if the playback level is adjusted carefully (turn it up a little above 'normal' and it is too in your face) and Chailly opens up the textures and lets the light in.
No.1 is fine and it is a relief after Jochum not to have the timps confusing the texture of the opening. In no. 2 the speeds are a touch faster than the fine performance by Haitink with the LSO but there is plenty of warmth and an exciting conclusion. The first 2 movements of no. 4 could possibly have a little more intensity here and there, but the third movement is charming and the last builds up to a formidable ending.
If you like your Brahms to be played like Barbirolli's Elgar you won't like this set. I do!
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WAILING WALL OFSOUND, 6 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Everybody said this was the best thing since sliced bread (or even toast -- what a cd player that would be...)
I bought it to replace my 1970s remastered Haitink set. Performance-wise, I've no quarrel with Chailly; he stacks up well against Haitink.
But the recording is very strange.
It's as if the music is written on a large wall, without any ambience or hall sound. Granted, the Haitink may be over-resonant, but my system seems to like that (it always responds well to the Chandos house sound.)
But this Chailly recording is totally without any "feel". I discovered that playing it at a much lower level that my other discs at least stopped it shrieking at me above mf -- but then, of course, it meant I couldn't actually hear a lot of the body of the symphonies.
Disappointing, then.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What incredible value, 30 Nov 2013
By 
Miss Nina Buchan (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies [+digital booklet] (MP3 Download)
I am discovering Brahms and had a little knowledge of the second symphony before this purchase. I'm absolutely delighted with it, I have learned so much about Brahms from it, and consider it incredibly good value.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and alluring, 25 Oct 2013
By 
Dr. M. Scott (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
A superb traversal of the Brahms symphonies. The dark lustre of the Leipzigers coupled with the penetrating genius of Chailly is perfect. Excellent recording with dark burnished colours.
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Brahms: The Symphonies [+digital booklet]
Brahms: The Symphonies [+digital booklet] by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly
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