This is fundamentally a well-played and enjoyable mid-price set of
the Brahms symphonies from the Liverpudlian orchestra, whom
I often commend. However the Fourth goes well beyond that
and is quite exceptional, well deserving of its many critical
Other than that, this set may or may not be to the listener’s taste.
It is somewhat faster paced and crisper than some of the lusher
German accounts such those by Karajan and the Berlin Phil
on Deutsche Grammophon or Sawallisch's commendable budget-priced
edition with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra.
I have one minor but significant quibble. There is nothing wrong and
indeed nothing unusual about a disc containing an overture
and a symphony. However it is an annoying feature of this
otherwise enjoyable set that the symphonies are followed by
an overture on discs two and four. Whilst both works are good,
it would work much better to hear them the other way round.
It is not all that difficult to programme a CD player to track
them in the listeners preferred order, but nevertheless this
programming does detract mildly from the listening pleasure
of the set.
These works are all well known and for the majority of listeners will
need no introduction. The questions are whether this set would
be preferable to other recordings; whether it is of sufficient
merit for the serious Brahmsian to purchase it additionally?
Would it be the recording of choice for someone new to these
My answers to these questions are firstly, no. There are other recordings
which are of equal or greater merit and some of which are
better value and/or cheaper. These recordings come from the
mid-1980s and whilst clear will not have the benefit of the
latest technical advances. The very fine performance of the
Fourth Symphony might well merit its purchase as an additional
recording (the Academic Festival
Overture is also very good). It
may not be the best or the ideal introduction or only recording
of these excellent works to have, but it is good and worthwhile.
by Christopher Howell