BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op.
98 (1884-85) [41:48] Hungarian Dances Nos. 2 and 4-9,
WoO1 (1868) (orch. Peter Breiner) [22:51]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Marin Alsop rec. 21-22 March 2005, Blackheath
Concert Hall, London, UK (Symphony); 22-23 April 2006, The Colosseum
Town Hall, Watford, UK (Dances). DDD
NAXOS 8.570233 [64:39]
recording of the Fourth completes Marin Alsopís cycle of the
Brahms symphonies for Naxos. Based on the quality of the other recordings,
it was much anticipated and it does not disappoint. Alsopís
interpretation is mainstream, but individual enough to make
it a very worthwhile purchase. Her overall timing is in the
normal range. Carlos Kleiberís celebrated account with the Vienna
Philharmonic (DG) clocks in at 39:46, while DohnŠnyi with the
Cleveland Orchestra (Warner) at 41:31 nearly matches Alsop.
Her first movement is slightly faster than the norm and the
second movement is somewhat slower. She brings out both the
dramatic and autumnal aspects of the symphony very well, and
the orchestra plays its heart out for her. The recorded sound
is also very good with the sound of the strings well cushioned,
even sumptuous. One of the highlights for me is the reprise
of the second subject near the end of the Andante moderato
(second movement) where the cellos are meltingly beautiful.
On the other hand, the staccato triplets beginning in measure
on the disc] are rather too deliberate and need more energy.
The third movement scherzo is very light on its feet and all
the better for it. Alsop brings out the drama well in the passacaglia
finale, if without quite the urgency of Kleiber who is nigh
unbeatable here. Overall, though, anyone collecting Alsopís
series of Brahms symphonies should be happy with this stunning
performance. Along with DohnŠnyiís recently reissued set of
symphonies on Warner, hers is a top budget choice.
sweeten the pudding, the disc concludes with seven Hungarian
Dances, which Naxos commissioned Peter Breiner to orchestrate.
Brahms himself, it must be remembered, arranged only dances
1, 3, and 10 for orchestra. DvořŠk orchestrated some of
the later dances (Nos. 17-21), while the earlier ones received
orchestral treatment from various hands. Here Breiner has come
up with fresh orchestrations that demonstrate an imaginative
use of percussion, brass, and winds as well as additional figures
in the accompaniment in No. 4. His employment of piccolo in
several of the dances recalls a similar instance by Brahms in
the finale of his Serenade No. 2. Alsop and the London Philharmonic
play these dances with great relish and end the disc in fine
last installment in Alsopís Brahms series thus receives a firm
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