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Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
21 Hungarian Dances – complete [51’47"]
Orchestrated: Brahms: Nos. 1, 3, 10; Hallen: No. 2; Juon: No.4; Parlow: Nos. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18; Schmelling: No. 7; Schollum: Nos. 8, 9; Dvořák – Nos. 17, 19, 20, 21

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Masur.
rec. Paul Gerhardt Kirche, Leipzig, Germany, September 1981. DDD
ELOQUENCE 476 2797 [51.47]


Over the past few days I have had an extremely enjoyable time reviewing Australian Eloquence CDs of the complete Brahms symphonies performed by these forces. Based upon the RED catalogue, the dances are still available at full price in the UK so to be able to buy them at super-budget price is a clear advantage. Compared with the symphonies these recordings are early digital material and there is no background noise at all compared with very slight hiss with the analogue recordings. The acoustic is clear and warm and this serves to enhance these performances by an orchestra and conductor who have this music in their bones.

As many music-lovers are aware, Brahms did not orchestrate all of these dances himself. They were originally written for piano duet. He entrusted this task to Hallen, Juon, Parlow, Schmelling, Schollum, and Dvořák. Most other recordings use these arrangements or different combinations of the different arrangers. A notable exception is the disc by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra on Philips. There the conductor applied his skills to enhance the Hungarian folk atmosphere of these charming little dances.

I cannot fault the current versions, Masur having the full measure of their character. The orchestra has no shortcomings whatsoever in their execution.

This disc is another example of the shrewdness of marketing in Australia. What they have done is put on to the market at an almost silly price - it can now be had for less than four pounds - a recording of the Brahms dances, supplied with good notes and a very tasteful presentation. All that Universal elsewhere seem to be able to do is to keep the full price issue in the catalogue (since 1984!).

You should not be put off by the fact that these discs have to be bought from ‘down under’. In these days of the Internet, the process could not be simpler, and the delivery performance of these suppliers is so good that stocked items can be with you within a week – better than most UK mail order suppliers.

Very highly recommended.

John Phillips


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