2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Brahms with smaller forces,
This review is from: Brahms: The Symphonies (1/ 2/ 3/ 4) (Paavo Berglund, Chamber Orchestra Of Europe) (Ondine: ODE 1229-2T) (Audio CD)
These recordings of the Brahms four symphonies were recorded live at the Baden-Baden Festival Hall in May 2000. Berglund uses a smaller orchestra than most concert-goers are traditionally used to and I, myself, was not accustomed to hearing performances where a chamber orchestra was utilized. I am aware that Sir Charles MacKerras uses similiar forces in his Telarc recording with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to listen to this set for comparison.
My initial apprehension at approaching this cycle was soon assuaged, and any doubts were immediately dispelled. Berglund's use of a smaller chamber orchestra allows him to rid these masterworks of the thick, congested textures that one sometimes hears with the big symphony orchestra performances. He is able to make these textures more transparent, highlighting instrumental lines. I definitely heard lines which I have never heard before. This is a lean approach to the symphonies. I really enjoyed them as an alternative to the more established view. Tempi are generally on the brisk side.
My reservations are few. I thought that the first movement of the first symphony seems a little jaunty which, to me, is a little out of character and misses the gravitas of the movement, making it sound flippant in parts. Some of the phrasing is mannered and quirky, with abrupt endings to some phrases. My other reservation is the overuse of accents in the first movement of symphony no. 3. The `plodding' accompaniment of the opening seems badly judged.
Overall the acoustic is very good. Booklet notes are excellent. It is a great pity that the two overtures or the St. Anthony Chorale Variations were not included, as the first two CDs are only just over forty minutes. That said, here is a set which presents these wonderful works in a new light, one worth exploring.