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on 11 November 2009
At last Brahms gets the treatment he deserves - as soon as you hear the first portamento in the introduction you know it's going to be good. Quite apart from the usual expected superlative playing from the Budapest Festival Orchestra and the lucid recording, once again Fischer has taken a familiar, even hackneyed piece and thought it through from the ground up. Charles Mackerras has long been an advocate of the use of rubato in Brahms' orchestral music, but his own application of the principle has been perhaps a little too restrained. Fischer, on the other hand, takes this scrupulous scholarship right to the heart of the piece and in doing so uncovers Brahms' gypsy soul, producing something bright and passionate to the point of incandescence. A marvel. The St Antoni Variations and the Hungarian Dance that fill the disc are lovely too.
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on 3 July 2011
Until recently I admired Walter and Jochum above most conductors in the Brahms symphonies. Both lots of recordings suffer from age. This new Fischer recording, however, is indeed a revelation. Lean but not mean, romantic but not maudlin, detailed but not without overall shape or spontaneity, it is beautifully recorded and above all it is exciting! Let us pray that the other symphonies will follow and will be up to this standard. Then we will be in Brahms heaven!
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on 15 December 2009
I bought this recording following a rave review in the Guardian. Whilst it is good, I didn't feel it deserved quite the notice it received. The problem I have is that I grew up with the Toscanini recording, whilst not Hi Fi is an incredible performance. The first movement, for instance, is nearly 3 minutes longer than Toscanini's and has no feeling of urgency, which, I feel, it needs. Too many conductors today treat Brahms as a died in the wool romantic, which he isn't. They should listen to those conductors who were fresh to his music to understand what his music needs.
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on 27 February 2010
A superlative performance of Brahms 1 which gave me more joy than any performance I've heard over the last forty years.
At the coda of the fourth movement, the Più allegro, I was overwhelmed and didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I ended up doing both ...
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on 31 December 2014
What with the advent of the New Year, changes are afoot at the Australian Knappertsbusch Association. I'll remain president for the foreseeable future (like, 2050). I'm not unhappy with the prodigality being displayed by JL, the Chief Procurement Office. Sadly, the overseas affiliates of the AKA have been tardy in the payment of memberships (exorbitant though they be) - I'll chase them up in 2015. The next big initiative, moreover, will be the appointment of Bart Simpson as the AKA's Cultural Ambassador to Generations Y and Z. Given that classical music is declining in its popularity, it's time to appoint a youth icon who can reverse this trend.

I recently caught up with Bart in his new capacity. It was time to discuss Ivan Fischer's Brahms First with him. As I'm tired of being the "One-Star Voice in the Wilderness" at Amazon, I was hopeful that Bart would share my viewpoint and condemn this diet-Marriner soufflé for what it is: a vile act of iconoclasm that ditches one hundred and thirty years of tradition wherein Brahms participated in the same heroic dynamic as Beethoven. Now, on the testimony of Ivan Fischer and other little-leaguers, divested of majesty, mojo and angst, Brahms is just another neo-classical wannabe with clipped phrasing. Be not afraid!

BO'H: "Bart, it is always good to see you. I've wanted to catch up with you for some time!"

Bart: "I didn't do it! It was not me! Blame the Old Man!"

BO'H: "Mate, you have nothing to worry about!"

Bart: "Bernard! I don't mind when you spit at home, but I have to work with these people. . . . . Now, wherever there is mystery and unexplained things, cosmic forces draw me near . . . . Look in my eyes. See the conviction? See the sincerity? See the fear? As God is my witness, I can listen to Brahms' First Baloney and other wacko music from the past!"

BO'H: "Then you're a better man than me! I got to a point where I could not stomach it any further! I presume Fischer's Haydn Variations are cut from the same cloth as the Symphony!"

Bart: "Who am I kidding? I'm a failure! I know how George Washington felt when he surrendered Fort Necessity to the French in 1754 . . . Dude, we're living in the age of cooties. I can't believe the risk you're running. Anyway, that's it. I've been scorched by Ivan Fischer before. I got a rapid heartbeat from those Fischer-brand vitamins. His bull-worker did nothin' for my pecs. My Fischer Kalculator didn't have a seven or eight. And Fischer's autobiography was self-serving, with many glaring omissions. But this time, he's gone too far!"

Bernard: "Sorry mate - you've lost me! Allow me to play the disc. We can listen to it together. After that, do me a favour: hit social media and denounce it as only you can!"

He nodded his head enthusiastically. For the next fifty minutes or so, he skateboarded around my office and juggled artefacts as I cringed in terror and dejection. At long last, the symphony died away and vapidly at that. I was speechless at first.

Bart: "I thought dabbling in the Black Arts would be good for a chuckle. How wrong I was. . . . . As usual, a knife-wielding maniac with a baton has shown us the way forward. Someday I want to be an F-14 military pilot like my hero Tom who lent me this new weapon called a neural disruptor. Ivan Fischer has an up-gunned version!"

He paused.

Bart: "So what do you think Fischer was thinking? Mess it up like the Beatles and say you were bigger than Jesus?"

I shrugged my shoulders. Nothing came to mind.

Bart: "Brahms' First Symphony . . . Wow! It's approved by the Royal Magic College of Hyderabad! Lifeless images rendered in colourful blobs. But at night, they take on a life of their own. They become portals to Hell, so scary and horrible and gruesome that . . . .Oh my god! The dead have risen and they're voting Republican and listening to Ivan Fischer!"

I drew a breath.

BO'H: "Then Bart - denounce this el cheapo bowdlerisation for what it is! Execrate it! It's space-junk at best! Fischer's Brahms is for those who are more attuned to Doonesbury than the Elgin Marbles (mind you, there's room in the universe for both of `em). Fischer - a middling talent - has already gutted Bruckner of metaphysics in the Seventh. Now it's Brahms' turn. Who will be next? Is nothing sacred?"

Bart: "Come on, Bernard. There's no such thing as a soul. It's just something they made up to scare kids. Like Robo-Chicken or Bubbles the Chimp."

At that point, I wondered whether this new arrangement would work. Bart must have seen the doubt in my eyes. Skipping out of my office, he said the following:

Bart: "Thanks Bernard. Part of this big fat D-Minus belongs to God. Goodbye Japan! I'll miss your sparkling whale-free seas."

We left it at that.
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on 16 January 2017
Lovely music , as good as if not better than Suitner, but where is No 3
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on 31 May 2014
The first symphony of Brahms is the well-wrought result of what Brahms bore in silence for almost twenty years - an agonizing process and a struggle against the giant Beethoven. But, in all fairness, it is a great symphony and one of the central works in the symphonic repertoire. Ivan Fischer and his fine Budapest Orchestra perform the Symphony really well. The tempos are just right, phrasing is good and the orchestral playing is excellent. Recording quality is very good. Recommended.
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on 17 May 2013
the orchestra and its conductor are as good as it gets. i've seen them live at symphony hall birmingham and therefore i know there were no engineering tricks to make it seem better than it really was.
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on 24 May 2012
Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra do it for me. Excellent recording and lovely fine playing. A real joy
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