'ORIGINAL BRAHMS' on BEULAH
JOHANNES BRAHMS conducted by Max
Academic Festival Overture 9.45
Symphony No. 2 38.36
Symphony No. 4 41.14
Berlin PO/Max Fiedler
(all from Polydor electric process 78s, rec 1929, 1931, ADD)
This is Max Fiedler not Arthur Fiedler whose name you may know as the whilom
conductor of the Boston Pops. Max (1859-1939) was much associated with Hamburg,
Brahms' birthplace. He knew Brahms (1833-1897) who also attended Fiedler's
performances of the Brahms symphonies. I have no information on whether Brahms
endorsed Fiedler's interpretations or bearing in mind that these were recorded
33 years after Brahms death whether Fiedler's interpretations changed over
the years. It does however make the recordings more of a 'dokumente' because
they are directed by a conductor who was a contemporary and close contact
with Brahms. Both Weingartner and Monteux had some contact with Brahms and
both left recordings: Monteux (Symphonies 2 twice and 3) and Weingartner
(symphonies 1 and 3).
The Overture is brisk and business-like with some passion worked up in the
more strenuous moments. The second symphony while dating from 1931 is noisier.
The noise is the background hiss of the 78. Other noises (click and pops
seem to have been adroitly banished). An elegance and grace pervades Fiedler's
reading of the sunny second symphony. Fiedler plays nothing routinely. Every
phrase seems pointed and moulded. The gaunt scarifying brass at 6.00 in the
first movement are a case in point suggesting a much darker world than we
usually associate with this work. The allegretto grazioso is fleet-footed
- almost Mendelssohnian and the second movement is serenity itself suggesting
an affinity Elgar's Nimrod. A vaulting majesty characterises Fiedler's Brahms
4 and is well worth experiencing. The breadth of the brass figure at the
start of the second movement takes some getting used to but the headlong
exultation of Allegro giocoso banishes doubts. The gaunt and tortured atmosphere
of the finale is abruptly and mysteriously conveyed linking to the Tragic
Overture and the dark brass in the first movement of the second symphony.
Fielder does not lack for dramatic motivation.
This is not quite the complete Brahms Fiedler. Fiedler also conducted the
second piano concerto in which Elly Ney (the Fuhrer's pianist!) was soloist.
This is available on Pearl mono GEMM CD 9170. The second symphony has appeared
before on a DG 'Early Years' LP set in 1974.
These historic recordings will be highly prized by Brahms and Fiedler
enthusiasts. You are unlikely to wish these for you first choice which for
me would include Wand or Walter with a marked preference for Walter.