In what appears to
be a closet cleaning exercise, Warner
have given us a pair of discs that begs
my oft-posed question: "Why?"
It has started to really baffle me as
to why record companies dredge up inferior
old recordings of standard repertoire
and foist them upon us as a viable option.
This is a classic case in point with
these sometimes excruciating performances
of Brahms’ first two symphonies.
We are in trouble from
the minute the horns enter in the first
movement of Op. 68. The intonation is
so off that it would cause a sensitive
listener to run for cover. Couple that
with the seemingly endless introduction
before we even arrive at the main theme,
and you have a performance that would
send everyone in the room running for
popcorn before the end of the exposition.
Edouard Lindenberg keeps things running
at a decent tempo for the rest of the
movement, but he does little to correct
the intonation problems and there are
times when they are just too much to
Things fare better
in the solemn second movement, and the
principal oboist and clarinetist turn
in some rather appealing solo work.
One could wish for a bit more forward
motion, however, as any sense of line
and movement seem to be an afterthought.
The movement is rounded off nicely with
the famous solo from the concertmaster,
Hopes for improvement
in the third and fourth movements are
dashed by some continuously dreadful
intonation and a propensity for turgid
tempi, effectively killing the music.
I cannot recall hearing worse brass
playing by a professional orchestra
than in the what-should-be gorgeous
set-up to the fourth movement chorale.
This splendid introduction is murdered
in cold blood by horrendously out of
Perhaps because it
is not nearly so difficult a work technically
or that the Northwest Deutschlanders
were having a better day than during
sessions for the first, Brahms’ second
symphony come off considerably better.
Without boring readers with a blow-by-blow
description of each movement, it will
suffice here to say that many of the
intonation problems prevalent in the
performance of the first symphony are
cleared up in the second. There also
seems to be a more urgent sense of communication
in this performance, with lines shaped
a bit more lovingly and tempo choices
a bit more compelling.
Having said that, however,
this is still not the playing of a first
tier orchestra, which brings me back
to my original question: "Why?"
Why does a record label feel the need
to reissue thirty-five year old recordings
by a second tier orchestra under a relatively
unknown conductor, playing repertoire
that is so over-represented in the catalogue?
With the wealth of really fine recordings
of these works available, there is no
need to clutter the shelves with these.
Skip this one for a
set that is trustworthier.