One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Buy through MusicWeb for £20.50/22.50 postage paid World-wide.
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contactfor details

Purchase button

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 (1876) [50.25]
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73 (1877) [42.55]
A Portrait of Semyon Bychkov [57.19]
WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Köln/Semyon Bychkov
rec. August 2002 (No. 1), April 2004 (No. 2), Kölner Philharmonie. DDD
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 243 [92:01]

These performances of Brahms Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 were recorded two years apart, in 2002 and 2004, without audience in the smart new Philharmonie in Cologne. The greatness of the music is a prime attraction to any prospective purchaser of the DVD. The discerning listener is unlikely to be disappointed by either the performances or the sound.

Semyon Bychkov exudes a rapport with both his orchestra and Brahmsís music. Tempi are well chosen and there is a good line of development, of the ebb and flow of tension and relaxation, as the symphonic line unfolds. Of course that means very different things in each of these symphonies, as the epic grandeur of No. 1 and the more pastoral ebullience of No. 2 are captured idiomatically.

The sound is rich and warm and individual brilliance is not lacking when it is required. In both symphonies the dexterity of the woodwind players is a marked triumph, while the brass and strings add a pleasing weight of tone. The finale of the First Symphony, a movement that can all too easily outstay its welcome, has a noble sweep of momentum even though the tempo is not the fastest. Therefore when the final climax is reached, it feels as though it is the cogent outcome of the struggles over which it has triumphed.

The Second Symphony allows the Cologne strings greater opportunity to display their lustrous tone and tight ensemble. The phrasing of the large-scale first movement is expertly handled, so too the darker character of the slow movement; for this is a symphony that contains a wider range of expression than is commonly supposed. In the third movement intermezzo there might have been a lighter touch in both rhythmic pointing and recorded balance, but the manner still befits the performance. Likewise the finale is full of exuberance, and of drama besides.

The DVD direction by Hans Hadulla is sensitive to details of the orchestral contributions, though as so often with these matters, he is rather fussy on detail at the expense of the larger view. For example, the superimposition of images one upon another is a feature that is somewhat overdone.

The accompanying documentation is above average, with some intelligently compiled material, while the accessing of the disc is well supported in the booklet too. It seems a pity that more issues donít attain these standards.

The extra material is devoted largely to the glorification of the conductor. Good luck to him - and his concern for artistic matters is never in doubt - but something about Brahms would have been welcome.

Terry Barfoot



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month


Cantatas and Organ Works

Complete Songs

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Simone Dinnerstein piano





Chopin Bruce Liu

Ingeneri Volume 2

Mondonville - Titon et L'Aurore

Telemann - French Cantatas 1


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.