Thielemann is second to none in appealing to the old German Kapellmeister tradition and refusing to accept the leaner and lighter orchestral textures associated with the early music movement. Yet the present recordings demonstrate the exact opposite, for his readings over the years of conducting Brahms symphonies have accquired a freedom, spontaneity and sense of relaxation brought about by his happy association with one of his favourite orchestras. Naturally, his view of the symphonies, has nothing in common with the weighty and stolid view of the composer that continues to influence attitudes to Brahms. Thielemann brings out the youthful ardour and Schumannesque exuberance of this music, taking it out of the scholar's study and placing it firmly in the world of nature.
In the hour long documentary "discovering Brahms" Thielemann explains how he approaches these four symphonies;what he thinks about them,but most importantly we get into the conductors mind. Being a charismatic man he explains himself very vividly.This then helps us understand the symphonies. I must add that his tempi are swift,especially during the last movements.During Thielemann's comments,I will add mine with T.
"He began writing symphonies later on in life( aged 43 in 1876 was when he wrote his first-T) because he felt overwhelmed by Beethoven. Everyone amongest his peers did. I find Brahms a logical conclusion to what Beethoven had done before. But he found his own individual path. It has been said that Brahms First was Beethoven's 10th.(Von Bulow called it the 10th to indicate that he was Beethoven's symphonic heir. He coined the phrase the three B's, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms-T.) Brahms was more sensitive then Beethoven was. Each symphony has a different character, but reflect nature".
SYMPHONY NO 1. The first movement. Allegro ."it is logically constructed. It is a great wave motion then it ebbs away. 2nd movement. Sacred. 4th movement. Adagio. It doesnt seem to get going,searches,then Ah Ha. A wonderful theme. Now the sun is shining. I play it as from afar.Something special is coming up. Then there is a kind of youthful eruption. The 2nd SYMPHONY .Ist Movement. It is a sunny day, the sun is shining.Lets hope the weather stays fine. The 2nd movement is like clouds in the sky. it is the one movement I find difficult in all of Brahms to conduct because of this clouding over. Do not let that tragic mood unsettle you. I have not conducted this symphony as much as the other,and I am glad because of this movement. The 1st,2nd and 4th symphonies all have upbeat endings, but the 3rd SYMPHONY is the most unusual and least understood.The ending of the last movement -Allegro implodes. The 3rd is subjective and conductors should approach it in this manner.No slow movement. In the Paco allegretto,3rd movement,the theme seems to say ,"Is it so? Yes,it is so." But the last movement,It slows up,the tempi becomes quicker,then nothing. What happened.? The Allegro implodes.That is why I prefer to conduct this symphony after the intermission. At least Brahms here is not like Wagner in the Liebestod,(Tristan und Isolde-T) where you virtually bleed,typical Wagner".
Thielemann feels that the fire of youth is often missing in Brahms symphonies. He calls it the steam train. Starts off slowly,reaches full speed and nothing can stop it,as in the final movements of the symphonies except the 3rd. 4th SYMPHONY. ."Here Brahms is really involved in Nature. Here there is more internal fire. The 1st movement starts off quietly.Dont think it is going to remain like this, Brahms seems to be saying; then a quick tempo moves in-the steam train begins to roll. 2nd movement is cheerful,not contemplative. It is like the 3rd symphony,which does not have a slow movement. I do not like to play it too fast. 3rd movement. You feel good all around like at the Octoberfest,Munich. I like it, it is so light hearted. 4th movement. Every conductor has to decide what tempo he will use in this movement. There are some movements in Brahms in which I have a fixed idea. But then it also depends on the hall,the orchestra and how they are, all these factors have to be decided. Brahms is very earthy. I wish I could meet him and ask why he put in the triangle. He probably would say, because I felt like it." This gives you an idea of what Thielemann wants to achieve. Spoken in German with English translations.
I believe that those who found Thielemann in his Beethoven symphonies too weighty, would find there is a great change in these Brahms symphonies. His tempo's are quick where possible. it is as though he has an old painting and cleaned off the dirt, to show you the real beauty beneath the surface. These symphonies are his own unique interpretation. He wants to get away from the dour performances his symphonies have received, There is an inner logic with Brahms,but gaiety breaks through to the external World.
Symphony No 1 recorded live at NHK Hall in Tokyo,22nd October 2012. No 2 Semperoper in Dresden 24-27th January 2013.No 3 NHK Hall in Toyko 22nd October 2012. No 4 Semperoper in Dresden 7-9th April 2013. Playing of the orchestra Staatskapelle,Dresden cond Thielemann, excellent,so is he. What else can I say. The bluray sound and picture are very good.
Two Bluray Discs are placed in plastic covers which are inserted inside a tough cardboard box. If you get stuck when play comes on the bluray, try pop up/menu on your remote. Audio, chapters and menu will come up. When you have finished,press same button again. Some people get a bit confused about this.
Filmed in HD mastered from an HD source. 10801 16.9. PCM Stereo.DTS-HD MA 5.0/5.1 surround sound. REGION CODE: A.B.C. SUBTITLES: English,Korean,Japanese.
REFERENCES:Ewen,D. The complete book of classical music.1978. Robert Hale.London. Spinola,J."To generate so much from a work's structure."2013.C Major.