12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An Underrated Great Brahms Symphony Cycle,
This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies etc (Audio CD)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Brahmsian archaeological excursion into classical music is a mixed blessing, but one where its virtues outweigh its flaws. I commend Grammophone's Guide to Classical CDs for rating Harnoncourt's Brahms symphony cycle as definitive. Here he has gone back to Brahms' original scores, offering invigoratingly fresh perspectives on Brahms' symphonies. Furthermore, he's emphasized 19th Century performance practices that have gone out of fashion, such as playing multiple notes with the single stroke of a string musician's bow. For example, Harnoncourt's reading of Brahms' 2nd Symphony is the most introspective I've heard, without the lush, warm sounds of the string, woodwind, and horn sections that I've come to expect after hearing mesmerizing, emotionally stirring, versions from Bernstein, Haitink and Masur. There are other instances where Harnoncourt's conducting is idiosyncratic, but oddly compelling, throughout this CD set. Of course the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's playing is first rate, yet it is noted more for its brilliance than for any warmth. And Teldec once again records live performances that are as well balanced as any studio recording. If you are willing to take the plunge and hear a distinctive, novel view of Brahms, then I strongly recommend acquiring Harnoncourt's cycle.