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Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73 (1877) [38í48"]
Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90 (1883) [37í08"]
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Masur
rec. 1977 Leipzig, (presumably the Gewandhaus Ė no details provided). DDD
ELOQUENCE 476 2815 [76.40]

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Nowadays this a common coupling and there are many other issues like this although they are unlikely to have the double advantage of Masur at his peak with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and be priced at £3.95.

The sweetness in the string tone, allied with the Leipzig acoustic and glowing woodwind and brass timbres make this an outstanding disc. Masur in his younger days made this orchestra play their hearts out and this is evident here. The problem then, was that the sound quality was affected by the variable transfer quality of the original Philips LPs. With this Australian-produced CD, there is still some very slight background tape hiss, but on the original vinyls, this was masked by surface imperfections. Now, with hiss hardly perceptible, these performances may be enjoyed in all their glory.

Universal allows each of its marketing managers in each of the geographical sectors, to choose the repertoire for their releases on Eloquence. Universal should take note of what Cyrus Meher-Homji has been doing for the Australian division. Whilst in Europe, the same recordings are endlessly re-cycled on different labels, in the case of Australian Eloquence some outstanding classic performances are being issued which otherwise have never seen the light of day.

In addition, since the delivery service is outstanding, better than most U.K. mail order organisations, there is no reason to delay in the purchase of such discs. I placed an order on Thursday, and the discs were delivered to my front door exactly one week later. Even if you share the postage costs over the discs, they still are no dearer than the domestic equivalents. The only word of caution is to limit the value of the discs you order, as if the total value is somewhat over £20.00, H. M. Customs at Mount Royal, on arrival in the U.K. will wipe out any possible savings by adding import duty, so beware.

Brahms took over forty years to write his first symphony. He produced his first two symphonies fairly close together and then there was a gap of some ten years before the urge came upon him to write another pair (also quite close together). This release couples the latter of the first two with the first of the last two. Both symphonies are considered warm and romantic, although there are some differences. No. 2, for example is warm and sunny throughout with a joyous finale rounding it off, with trombones ablaze with colour. The third, also romantic in nature, is more autumnal, the only one of Brahmsís symphonies to have all four movements ending quietly.

First movement repeats are omitted - thatís not unusual. Although I know of some music-lovers who will not listen to such, I personally do not get too worried by their omission.

I can only hope that the distance factor does not deter collectors from dipping into this goldmine of issues. Those of us who are constantly frustrated by the regular re-appearance of the same old recordings on the re-issue merry-go-round should take note of what is happening in Australia. Well done Mr. Meher-Homji.

John Phillips


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