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Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1-4

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Brahms: Symphonies Nos.1 - 4 (2 CDs)
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Eugen Jochum
  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Audio CD (24 Mar. 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GS0
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,978 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product description

JOCHUM EUGEN / BERLIN P. O.

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Format: Audio CD
Jochum began the recording of the four Brahms symphonies with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1951 (No.2). In 1953 First and Fourth followed. Finally, in 1956 the set was completed with the Third. The orchestra was still the one shaped by Furtwängler, Jochum's mentor since the early Thirties.
The young fellow and great admirer of the elderly master offers beautiful readings, quite free from metronomic restrictions, at the polar opposite from the Toscanini readings: Jochum in fact focuses more on the complex polyphonic textures of the scores, following the tradition of the conductors of the previous generation. We have to remember that Brahms had once complained, after a performance of his Fourth in a concert, he was not able "to speed up and slow enough "(see notes on the CD booklet).
The best performances are, in my opinion, those of the first two symphonies: No. 2 has a beautiful freshness and liveliness and is better than the 1970s version with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI). The beginning of the fourth movement of the First is powerful and the sense of expectation is carefully calculated, before the dramatic entrance of the "Beethovenian" theme. Perhaps the Fourth, even if remains on a level of excellence, lacks the profundity of the meditative reading of the EMI edition. As for audio, it must be said that the Deutsche Grammophon mono is great, especially in the Third. In my opinion You should have also the stereo cycle of EMI, with Maestro Jochum equally inspired, but more spiritual and deep.

Booklet: offers a very interesting text about the history of the recordings, plus many critical essays.

Deutsche Grammophon
2CD set - Mono ADD
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Format: Audio CD
If anybody, like me, sometimes view Brahms' music as rather turgid and heavy-going then this is the set for you!. I've never enjoyed listening to the symphonies as much as this account from Eugen Jochum and the BPO from the 1950's. Ok it's in mono but don't let that distract you from the fantastic playing of this wonderful orchestra. And the wonderful flexible, almost swashbuckling conducting from Jochum.
Jochum, known for his Bruckner interpretations, takes on a very different style of music here. But, never-the-less is no less effective.
Just listen to the different textures that Jochum can draw from the different sections of the orchestra to make this music sing along.
To the dogged Brahms purists out there, this may disappoint!. But, personally speaking, it's a revelation. It actually makes his music sound more interesting - dare I say it more exciting??...
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Format: Audio CD
I second everything all the previous reviewers have said about this cycle. It is certainly one of the best out there, containing some incredibly energetic playing with plenty of passion as well as great sensitivity. For me, Jochum's interpretation of Symphony No. 2 is one of the best out there. It is given a warm, robust performance and the last movement is played with a kind of white-hot energy that you rarely hear nowadays.

Many people think that all Brahms' symphonies should be played as though they are 'Old Man's Music by the fireside' type of thing. Well, just listen to the coda in the last movement of the Second Symphony as conducted by Jochum and tell me if you think this is cosy, sombre music. For me, this is one of the most exciting, joyous and uplifting finales of any symphony that I know (surely that's saying something!).

The Berliners under Jochum play with a great depth of sound and with that characteristic legato that was further cultivated under Karajan. Yet as this cycle is from the mid 1950s, we get to hear the Berlin Phil pre-Karajan, which has the advantage that the sound is a bit more direct and has a bite to it that was sometimes smothered by Karajan's concern for beauty of sound. This is heard to great effect in Jochum's reading of the First Symphony, which is at times grand, imposing, but never ponderous. It has an energy that carries you away right to the end of the piece.

Although the sound is Mono, it is still perfectly acceptable - in fact there is a warmth in the recording which is quite endearing (once you get used to it). For me, this cycle stands alongside Bruno Walter's New York Phil cycle from the early 1950s as one of the greatest to be committed to disc.
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By A Customer on 4 May 2001
Format: Audio CD
When these recordings were released in the 50s, some thought that they were a "conductor's holiday" - that Eugen Jochum interpreted too freely. It was at a time when Furtwängler was concidered oldfashioned and the pupils of Toscanini set the agenda. Today, personal interpretations of standard works are somewhat more popular. Jochum admittedly does deliver his own readings of these four symphonies, but what readings! From start to finish, he breathes life and meaning into every single note, and the music flows with a plasticity of tempo that makes each single symphony feel like a whole. If that is oldfashioned, then call me oldfashioned. Moreover, the Berlin Philharmonic has never before, nor since played better. Jochum draws a simply incredible quality of orchestral playing from the orchestra. It does not matter that the recordings are made before the stereo era. Buy them. They are vastly superior to any contemporary recordings if you ask me!
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