JANDL100

Brahms 4th symphony

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JANDL100 wrote:

Next up:

Brahms 4th symphony with Bruno Walter

.... a quote taken from the bLog Cabin.

I'd like to focus on Brahms 4 for a moment - I recall musicbox saying it got his vote for the greatest symphony ever written.

So ... what are your fave recordings of this mighty work, folks?

(Favoured versions of the other Brahms symphonies would also be of much interest :)).

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We might have done this debate in the blog cabin a couple of years ago, but as it is possibly the greatest symphony ever then it won't hurt to revisit.

Greatest recording?

Obvious choice is Carlos Kleiber + VPO on DG from early 1980s. It Magnificent. Fast, lithe and totally compelling and no romanticized slowing in the finale brings out the sense of tragic inevitabillity. Soundwise thought its problematic - thick, congested and metallic sound (but in some strange way this matches the interpretation?). I recall Logan saying he found the vinyl issue much better but I've got it too and I don't fintit any better (but that may be the pressing). The DG Originals issue on CD sounds best to me.

The Kleiber Brahms 4 is for me one of the greatest recording of anything ever.

Recently I discovered Kent Nagano + Deutsches Symphonie Orkest on Harmonia Mundi. This is very similar interpretation to Kleiber's but he just doesn't quite get the passion or intensity.... but sound is superb.

I have not heard Toscanini's several versions for many years but they are usually talked about in hushed tones. Same with Furtwangler - but personallyI find mono recordings difficult to get along with.

Usual suspects Bohm, Jochum, Wand etc all very worthy but after hearing Kleiber they don't do it for me anymore.

More recently.... Harnoncourt's Brahms set did absolutely nothing for me, likewise Mackerras stripped down chamber orch set. Would love to hear Abbado's last Belrin recording, even though it was not given much credit when released. Same for Chailly/Concertgebouw.

I greatly enjoyed Norrington's 1st and his 3rd and 4th are pretty good too, but I know other people can't stand them.

I'd love to hear what Boulez might do with the Brahms Symphonies....

I've heard the 4th live several times.... best by far was an absolutely fiery performance from Alexander Lazarev and Scottish National Orchestra in the Caird Hall, Dundee (1992). Simon Rattle and CBSO in theBasingstoke Anvil (1997 I think) was well worthwhile too. Paavo Berglund and Scottish Chamber Orch in Usher Hall just a bit slow - but the Double Concerto that preceeded it was wonderful.

Fave Brahms Sym recordings:

1- Adrian Boult + LPO

2 - Abbado + BPO

3 - Abbado + BPO

4 - Kleiber + VPO

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Thanks Alan :)

I've just ordered the DG Originals release of the Kleiber. A fiver delivered. Pretty short measure though - only the 4th on the disc at about 40 minutes :x.

There's also a very favourable review of the Sawallisch Brahms 4HERE - so I've just pickedthatupas well- as part of the complete cycle (the 3rd gets a very good review too) - for an astonishing £2.32 delivered ! :shock::D

Also came across a rave review of Janowski's Brahms 1st & 3rd HERE - "exceptionally fine" says the reviewer. So I've just clicked the "Buy Me" icon for that set too - £4.70 the set.

Wheeeeee !! :P

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Let's see ... what Brahms 4ths do I already have? ....

Walter, Bohm,Thomas Sanderling (listening to this on headphones as I type) ... not exactly granitic, unless the temperature has suddenly got very hot!:) He kind of mauls it about a bit and tension is distinctly lacking.

I like both Walter and Bohm very much - both very taut and exciting once they get going (no, I've not heard Kleiber yet!) - but I was surprised to find the Walter sound quality thin and lacking impact ... 1st time I've listened to it for ages, last night .... I seem to recall mb raving about the SACD edition's sound quality-I'll look out forthat now that I've got a SACD player.

I've owned the Mackerras set, but found it quite without feeling. A "just the notes" approach really doesn't do it in Brahms, no matter how well played those notes are. :dunno:

I can't seem to get on with Boult's Brahms either - I find that uninvolved & passionlesstoo.

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Got quite a few Brahms symphony CDs, me.:P Its hard for me these days to narrow my choices to what I feel are the "definitive" recordings, because the Brahms symphonies remain highly palatable whether they are played in a fast frenetic style, or syruped over in that classic autumnal, white-beard mode.:D Cycles I like and constantly revisit are:

Autumnal Brahms: Sanderling/Dresden, Wand/NDRSO, Haitink/Concertgebouw, Haitink/Boston, Walter/Columbia, Bernstein/VPO

Fast, perky Brahms: Levine/VPO, Toscanini/RCA SO, Abbado/BPO, Jochum/LPO, Jochum/BPO, Kempe/MunichPO

My personal favourites for each symphony:

1 - Jochum/LPO

2 - Wand/NDRSO (lovely smooth woodwind sounds make this interpretation very bucolic and mellow) Also like the faster-paced approach of Abbado/BPO and Jochum/LPO. And there are the blazing BPO accounts from Karajan/BPO(64) and Furtwanger (legendary). Walter and Haitink's two accounts are also quite lovely. As is Levine's live VPO and Kempe. (Did I say this is my favourite Brahms symphony?:D)

3 - Walter/Columbia my least favourite Brahms. Luckily I find Walter to be definitive here. Or maybe I'm not being as finicky as I am with the other symphonies!:PSanderling/Dresden gets honourable mention.

4 - For a one-stop solution, Kleiber/VPO is most serviceable but the hard-edged DG sound really irritates and spoils the enjoyment. I'd go for Toscanini/NBC. Honourable mention: Bernstein/VPO (a very lovely second movement), Levine/VPO, Haitink/Concg, Ashkenazy/Cleveland (this is like a remake of the Kleiber in superior Decca sound) and Solti/CSO.

SS

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Cooo - I just noticed that on Radio 3 tonight there's Brahms 4 (and LvB VC) with Chailly/Gewandhaus Orch from last year's Proms - I missed it then, was it any good?

Shall def tune in this eve.

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Agree with lots of above viewpoints. My own ten penneth is that as an all-round cycle, the Abbado/BPO is very hard to beat. It's now cheap and has very useful extras, but it's just the superb playing he gets from this orchestra, less soupy than the Karajan days, more energy and fire, just what these warhorses need.

Individually, I have to go with the Kleiber 4th; yes, the recording isn't ideal (neither was his equally famous Beethoven 5/7) but what power, drive, de-romanticizing, and the VPO have rarely played better for anyone, anytime.

Love the Walter 2 and 3, as well as Klemperer 1 and 4 (I grew up on these), also great repsect for Solti (2 and 3) and Dohnanyi. Bernstein's 1 is gloriously over the top (you'll never hear the big finale climax in such neon lights) but I confess to not keeping up with recent stuff, as the selections above keep me very happy.

ps, I also adore the two orchestral serenades, well worth hearing if you like the symphonies (Tilson Thomas/LSO, dirt cheap)

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a few weeks ago I found a brand new LP of the Haydn Variations, Pierre Monteux and LSO. Just gave it a spin.... lovely. Elgar's Enigma on the flipside.

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This seems the place to ask this:

I got given a lovely 4 CD box set of Brahms entitled The Four Symphonies Variations on a theme by Hayden, conducted by Barenboim with the Chicago SO.

So the dumb question is, are these the “standard Brahms symphonies 1 through 4†or are these variations on the theme and therefore different in some way?

Enjoying them none the less.

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Hi Philip

You've got 5 separate muiscal pieces there - the 4 symphonies and the Variations.

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musicbox wrote:

a few weeks ago I found a brand new LP of the Haydn Variations, Pierre Monteux and LSO. Just gave it a spin.... lovely. Elgar's Enigma on the flipside.

A lovely disc, one of my favourites. Off topic, sorry!

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Brahms’ music is a bit like eating overly rich fruit cake – quickly leads to indigestion and bloating… The chamber music is much better than the orchestral though. There are some very nice violin sonatas, and cello sonatas. The clarinet sonatas are quite lovely and I really like the clarinet quintet – much deeper emotionally than the symphonies.

If you absolutely have to listen to the Brahms symphonies (with Alka Seltzer at the ready) Paavo Berglund and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on the Ondine label are the least fruit cakey. In fact they make them sound a bit like the chamber music – less stodgy and congested.

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Sine Nomine wrote:

Brahms’ music is a bit like eating overly rich fruit cake – quickly leads to indigestion and bloating… The chamber music is much better than the orchestral though.

:shock:That's amazing! Just shows how tastes and perceptions differ - I'd have reversed what you said, SN - and put the chamber music at the stodgy end of the spectrum! The symphonies can be stodgy, but in my preferred performances they are lean mean fightin' machines !!

Funny old world. :)

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I find a lot of Brahms Chamber music too dry and thick to be easily digestible - especially the 2nd and 3rd quartets, the string quintets and Piano Trios.

But I love the Violin Sonatas, Clarinet sonatas and the clarinet quintet is slowly growing on me. Love the Piano Quartets too, but find the Piano Quintet too dry.

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JANDL100 wrote:

Sine Nomine wrote:
Brahms’ music is a bit like eating overly rich fruit cake – quickly leads to indigestion and bloating… The chamber music is much better than the orchestral though.

:shock:That's amazing! Just shows how tastes and perceptions differ - I'd have reversed what you said, SN - and put the chamber music at the stodgy end of the spectrum! The symphonies can be stodgy, but in my preferred performances they are lean mean fightin' machines !!

Funny old world. :)

I'm with my nameless colleague on this one: Brahms` chamber music over the symphonies every time (and I have been having a good play of the symphonies recently), especialyy the violin sonatas and Op 120 in either original clarinet or viola transcriptions or the Op51 quartets...

Maybe I need bigger speakers...

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