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Brahms: The Symphonies

Box Set

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, 7 Sep 2009
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Audio CD (7 Sept. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,332 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. I. Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
  2. II. Andante sostenuto
  3. III. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
  4. IV. Adagio - Allegro non troppo ma con brio

Disc: 2

  1. I. Allegro non troppo
  2. II. Adagio non troppo
  3. III. Allegretto grazioso (Quasi andantino) - Presto, ma non assai
  4. IV. Allegro con spirito
  5. I. Allegro con brio - Un poco sostenuto
  6. II. Andante
  7. III. Poco allegretto
  8. IV. Allegro - Un poco sostenuto

Disc: 3

  1. I. Allegro non troppo
  2. II. Andante moderato
  3. III. Allegro giocoso
  4. IV. Allegro energico e passionato

Product description

Product Description

The name of Simon Rattle had not been closely associated with the works of Johannes Brahms so it was even more rewarding when his first Brahms recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker, "Ein deutsches Requiem", won critical accolades and both Grammy and Classic FM/Gramophone awards. Now Sir Simon and the Orchestra have committed to disc the complete Brahms symphonies, recorded in concert at Berlin’s Philharmonie in the autumn of 2008. In the words of Die Zeit, "Simon Rattle has finally dared to tackle Brahms with the Berliner Philharmoniker. He combines Furtwängler’s monumentality with Karajan’s beautiful sound."

The Brahms symphonies concerts drew praise from the German critics: "The fourth symphony was an ecstatic apotheosis of what current orchestral playing, quick reactions and scarcely sketched annotations can get out of this work which has long since become a classic. Especially the Passacaglia finale was a finely-dosed wonder of sound refinement and harmonic finesse. Rattle appears to have finally conquered his difficult Berliners."--Die Welt.

BBC Review

The music of Johannes Brahms is a beguiling mixture of lushness and lightness. Whilst his rich harmonies and orchestral timbres cry out for weighty, heart-on-sleeve syrup, there are surprisingly clear textures and vibrant melodies, reflecting his love of earlier classical repertory and of Hungarian gypsy music.

The question, then, for the Berlin Philharmonic’s new recording of his symphonies, is how such a multi-faceted musical personality will fit within their famously rich and polished sound, even allowing for the fact that 19th century German music historically represents their core repertoire. This three-CD recording generally hits all the right buttons, with the occasional disappointment counteracted by moments of pure musical ecstasy.

The Berlin Philharmonic is often unwilling to sacrifice perfection of sound in order to play rough for dramatic or musical effect, and the criticism stands for this recording. Across all four symphonies you don’t always get edge when you want it. Brahms’ writing also often calls for more sprightliness than this orchestra are prepared to give. From the opening chord of No.1, you’re hit by the velvety force of weight and sorrow, but it needs a lighter jaggedness to bring it to life. There are similar goings-on at the majestic opening of No.3, which has lost some of its turbulent forward thrust and feels more like a wade through treacle.

However, if you’re looking for Romantic depth and sheer beauty of tone, then you’ve come to the right band. In fact, there are moments where a particular theme is so achingly lovely that you almost forget to breathe, such as the golden-hued, vibrato-heavy cello of No.3’s slow movement.  Furthermore, the orchestra’s weighty tone often sounds just right; the Scherzo of No.4 may feel more triumphant than playful, but it works. With its clearly delineated, edge-of-the-seat dynamics, you know that were you to be listening to this urgent, enormous interpretation in a concert hall, the floor would be shaking satisfyingly beneath your feet.

In short, this recording absolutely delivers on Brahms’ depth and beauty, but sometimes misses his edge and pizzazz. The good outweighs the bad, though. --Charlotte Gardner

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