Symphony No.4 in E minor Op.98 (1885) [41.48]
Hungarian Dances Nos. 2, 4-9 (1868) (arr. by Peter Breiner) [22.51]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Marin
rec. Blackheath Concert Hall, London, 21-22 March 2005 (Symphony); Colosseum,
Town Hall, Watford, 22-23 April 2006. NAXOS 8.570233 [64:39]
is the first recording from the LPO/Alsop Brahms cycle that
I’ve so far encountered. And it certainly knocks into a cocked
hat the last E minor symphony performance I reviewed, that by
Daniel Harding and Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, recently
revivified on Virgin. It has far greater tonal saturation, far
more clear-sighted architectural goals and none of the personalisation
that rendered the Harding a less than successful outing.
That said there will be those
who find Alsop rather too measured. Her opening movement is
certainly relaxed and it’s not simply a question of timings;
it’s more a matter of rhythmic emphases and accents. The LPO
play excellently for her if not with quite the bottom-up string
power cultivated by German orchestras. But this relative lightness
and the relaxed patina of the opening movement certainly reflects
the direction of her leadership which is away from thrusting
Italianate lyricism and towards a more equilibrium-orientated
reading. Her performance then is affectionate, lyrical, with
string phrasing that glides rather than prowls. Rather interestingly
her outer movements are almost exactly the same length as Knappertsbusch’s
legendary 1953 Cologne broadcast – but there resemblance ends.
The furore and the seismic breakdowns imparted by Kna are simply
not part of Alsop’s schema.
second movement is attractively chiselled if dynamically emotive – warmly
emotive though, lest this gives any impression of relative indifference.
There are no rhythmic, balancing or other quirks to distract
the ear. It’s a slower reading than Kna’s and entirely differently
orientated – I mention him as a kind of talisman of emotional
violence and fervour in this score. The scherzo’s accents are
kept within bounds – spry and satisfyingly of a piece. The finale
is well considered, architecturally convincing but in the last
resort not especially moving – it’s perhaps too considered a
view. So a conclusion - finely played, well argued, intelligently
and sympathetically directed, a little lacking in fire.
coupling consists of a number of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances arranged
by Slovak-born Peter Breiner. All Breiner’s works that I’ve
heard have been worth a listen. Here he digs into the material
with real gusto. I enjoyed No.4 a lot but elsewhere he does
deploy the percussion in a Heavy Brigade kind of way; No.6 takes
a bit of a mauling via brass and percussive assaults.
the main business is the Symphony; a good, intelligent and thoughtful
performance at a can’t-argue price bracket. Even so I’d investigate
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