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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as I had hoped, 3 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 1-4, Piano Concerto 1, German Requiem (Audio CD)
There are good things in this bargain box -- the digitally recorded First Piano Concerto and German Requiem are in very pleasant warm sound and are very well played. My only complaint is that I would like a bit more presence, something like the sound that Telarc provides for Robert Spano in the Requiem, which is just right to my ears (even though his soloists let him down). Emanuel Ax plays superbly in the concerto -- a really distinguished account, I think, and Levine paces and phrases well -- but it sounds a bit more remote than it could be. There are earlier, pre-digital recordings that have more presence (Gilels/Jochum, for one). Likewise with the Requiem. I like the pacing and the warm expressiveness, and the soloists are very good (Kathleen Battle, a soprano I had a low opinion of, surprises me here) and the chorus sounds lovely, but it all needs a bit more oomph!

The symphonies do have more presence, and the conducting is lively and unaffected, with plenty of energy, but misjudgments in sound are really damaging here. At least on my equipment, the recordings are bottom-heavy, and that's OK, if the top parts get their due in the overall aural picture, but they don't here. The high strings whistle, and the high woodwinds (and even in the middle range of the woodwinds) are harsh-sounding to the point of distraction. One can hardly blame Levine for this, but the problems with the sound mess up one's sense of the coherence of the development of the music. To be fair, Symphonies 1 and 4 sound better than 2 and 3, but there are other recordings of this vintage (Karajan's and Haitink's, e. g.) that do justice to the sound. I was so bothered by the sound in the Second Symphony (from 1976) that right after playing it I put on Guilini's 1980 DGG recording from Los Angeles. No contest -- the texture and transitions are much more appreciably audible in the DGG issue, and, I have to say, Guilini's way of leading the listener's ear through the developing structure is on a very different level from the young Levine's, attractive though the youthful energy is. So . . . still a bargain at the price -- and maybe your equipment will get it across better than mine does.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Sep 2014 03:10:28 BDT
I'd love to know what equipment you are using by which to make your comments. Care to share the info.? I will reciprocate shortly in a review of the Japanese RCA remastering of the Brahms in 2007.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2014 04:12:03 BDT
I listen on mid-price Bose headphones. I don't have a good room system at the moment. I do sometimes wonder if it would make a difference in some of my judgments -- but I like the headphones, and I get good presence at both top and bottom ends. They do a good job on Klemperer's Brahms from the '50's and on Vanska'a fairly recent digital Beethoven on BIS. Thanks for asking! SC
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Location: Greenville, SC

Top Reviewer Ranking: 220