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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No.3 in F Op.90 (1883) [35:46]
Symphony No.4 in E Op.98 (1885) [38:05]
Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie
rec. Studio Stollberger Strasse, Cologne, November 2000 (Symphony
No.4) and June 2001 (Symphony No.3) VIRGIN
CLASSICS 3913302 [73:58]
recordings were made in 2000 and 2001 in Cologne and now
reappear in Virgin’s long batch of diverse reissue material.
Its original number was 5454802 and the coupling is unchanged.
world is not lacking in good new recordings of these symphonies
much less recordings stretching back to the days of phonographic
antiquity but it doesn’t stop the appearance of all and sundry.
Harding’s traversals are notable for a rather bleached out,
clarified, maybe even objectified tonal sound. They sound,
to be straightforward, rather thin. There’s not a trace of,
say, Knappertsbusch’s Germanic saturation and whilst I use
him as a polar opposite in terms of sonority this does also
relate to matters of expression as well. The opening of the
Fourth Symphony, for example, sounds rather unengaged and
the strings rather pallid in sound. This is a design point – Harding
is holding things in reserve – but the disjunction between
them acts as something of a gulf and the accumulated tension
registers a touch oddly in this quasi-chamber force reading.
He is inclined to be withdrawn in the slow movement – not
insensitive but a little fitful certainly. The scherzo is
by far the best played and conducted of the four – its success
is due to requisite rhythmic impetus. Come the finale however
and I do find things rather too stolid for comfort.
Third rather reflects these characteristics. There’s a cool,
rather calculating air to the first movement. Despite this
there are moments when it doesn’t quite hold as a symphonic
argument and nor does the slow movement evince any more of
a sense of expressive warmth than the Fourth. There’s a decidedly
chilly, remote attitude at work here. It’s in the more extrovert
moments here that things work best, where the sense of unbuttoning
encourages more extrovert music making. This is most true
of the Poco allegretto which demonstrates real virtues
of balance and symphonic control and also of much of the
finale, which builds up a considerable amount of energy.
however this is an idiosyncratic coupling that can’t merit
a more obviously general recommendation. Available singly
the recent Alsop/Naxos performances for instance will, I
think, prove more durable.
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