Otto Klemperer's Brahms needs no introduction. It remains a classic reference edition, one of the very few complete cycles with absolutely no weak links. It's customary to call these performances "granitic", an adjective that certainly applies to the First Symphony but doesn't begin to describe the swift and thrilling finale of the Fourth, the grand but impulsive Third (with its first-movement repeat in place), or the warmly lyrical Second. In general Klemperer's unsentimental but always gripping approach to this music practically defines the word "idiomatic". The Alto Rhapsody with Christa Ludwig also is one of the great ones, while the shorter works share the same virtues as the symphonies.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
This CD captures the impassioned live performances of Brahms’s first two symphonies conducted by the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski. Jurowski came to international attention and recognition on disc in 2005 with two Tchaikovsky releases: Suite No.3 on PentaTone and on the LPO label his debut recording Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, both widely and critically acclaimed releases. As Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times noted 'Jurowski is proving himself one of the rising podium stars, especially in his native Russian music'.
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This was Istvan Kertesz' last major project. Early in the 1960s, he had conducted the Dvorřak symphonies with such authority that he recorded the complete cycle for London–an epoch-making set that's still highly recommended today. For those recordings Kertesz had the London Symphony Orchestra, but his best recordings were made in Vienna. His notorious dislike of rehearsals was bound to appeal to the equally relaxed and tradition-conscious Viennese, particularly when it came to music they knew well. The result is a real musical love-in, with the orchestra the star of the show and the performance some of the best Brahms that money can buy. –David Hurwitz
This disc was nominated for the 1998 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album," "Best Engineered Album, Classical," and "Best Orchestral Performance."
This is not your father's Brahms, though it may be your great-grandfather's. The concept behind this cycle-with-a-difference is to emulate the kind of orchestra Brahms liked to use, specifically the Meiningen Court Orchestra, with which he worked extensively after 1880 and entrusted with several important premieres…