Brahms: Symphonies 1-4 - Haitink
LSO Live LSO0570 (4 discs)
Classical - Orchestral
Brahms: Symphonies 1-4, Double Concerto, Tragic Overture, Serenade No. 2
Gordan Nikolitch (violin)
Tim Hugh (cello)
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Bernard Haitink (conductor)
After struggling for years to come to terms with his fear of comparison to Beethoven, Brahms finally completed his First Symphony at the age of 43. It was hailed as a triumph and the remaining three symphonies followed relatively easily.
His Symphony No. 2 overflows with a relaxed, pastoral beauty, while the Third Symphony contains some of the most dramatic music Brahms was to compose. Finally, loaded with German Romanticism and including variations on a Bach cantata, Brahms’ final symphony is a remarkable example of his mastery of symphonic composition. A rich, warm work that builds on a sense of movement and intensity right up to the final bars. Along with the symphonies, this release also includes Brahms’ Double Concerto, Tragic Overture and Serenade No. 2.
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- Johannes Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op. 102
- Johannes Brahms: Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16
- Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
- Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
- Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
- Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
- Johannes Brahms: Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Review by Graham Williams - November 25, 2022
Admirers of the late Bernard Haitink’s interpretations of the great masterworks are legion. Over his long conducting career, spanning more than 60 years, the symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler and Brahms were central pillars in his repertoire and he recorded them many times to great critical acclaim.
In the case of Brahms, The London Symphony Orchestra’s cycle of the four symphonies was Haitink’s first set of recordings to be issued on the LSO Live label. It was originally released on CD individually throughout 2004–05, and then as a boxed set in 2005. Though all the symphonies and the associated works on this four-disc set (the Double Concerto, Tragic Overture and Serenade No.2) were recorded in DSD 64fs only the first two symphonies were issued on SACD but now this collection of remastered recordings is available in full on multi-channel SACD.
These performances clearly illustrate many of the familiar virtues of Haitink’s approach to the music that he interpreted. Tempi in all four symphonies are well chosen and maintained with consistency, his grasp of structure is never in doubt and, as here, he inspires his musicians to give of their best. Inevitably reactions to the performance of each symphony will differ, but for this listener the conductor’s spacious and glowing account of Second is quite special, even if Haitink here eschews the first movement exposition repeat.
The re-mastering by Jonathan Stokes is most successful and has immeasurably improved the sound. For those listening to the 5.1 multi-channel mix they will notice more information from the surround speakers that adds a welcome warmth to the clean but often unyielding Barbican acoustic.
Though there are countless rival interpretations of these works available on CD and SACD this timely release of Haitink’s final thoughts on the Brahms Symphonies will be undoubtedly welcomed by many collectors.
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