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 was evident in these performances.
The problem was that the sound 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. With
hiss now hardly perceptible these performances
may be enjoyed in all their glory.
In many ways, this
fourth symphony of Brahms is his masterpiece
among the symphonies. In this performance
the first movement, with its extended
coda, makes for thrilling listening.
The slow movement is warmly played and
is unlikely to be anything other than
fully enjoyed by anyone coming to it
for the first time. As most music lovers
know, Brahms put out the boat for this
symphony in terms of orchestration,
for in addition to the normal symphonic
complement he added a triangle. In some
recordings this slight brightening of
the texture can almost go unnoticed
but here it is clearly audible, making
its contribution to the symphonic argument.
What is notable is
the absolute rightness of the sound
of this symphony and of the two overtures.
The East German (as it was then) instrumental
timbres are extremely attractive, especially
the sound of the woodwind, so important
in this symphony. The microphones are
set somewhat back from the orchestra,
so a clear concert perspective of the
players is the main audio characteristic.
allows each of its marketing managers
in each of the geographical sectors,
to choose repertoire for releases on
Eloquence. The company should take note
of what is happening ‘down under’ in
the hands of Cyrus Meher-Homji. Whilst
in Europe the same recordings are endlessly
re-cycled on different labels, Australian
Eloquence offers outstanding classic
performances which elsewhere have never
seen the light of day.
In addition to the
fourth symphony, Masur gives us the
two overtures Brahms wrote, in the early
1880s. The first, the Academic Festival
Overture was written for the University
of Breslau which was conferring on Brahms
the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Brahms used student songs in the Overture,
ending with the famous Gaudeamus
Igitur. The overall atmosphere is
extremely jolly. This was almost too
much for Brahms to bear. Very shortly
afterwards he produced his Tragic Overture
in a minor key, thought by some to be
a first movement to a symphony, but
with the rest of it missing.
The playing of the
Overtures, like that of the symphony
is exemplary, and at Australian Eloquence
prices (about £3.75 per disc plus postage),
this makes superb value. Good notes
plus tasteful covers and without the
sonic alterations present on the European
Very highly recommended.