MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


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

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Complete Symphonies and Concertos

CD 1 [52:52]
Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, Op.15 [52:52]
CD 2 [71:02]
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat, Op.83 [50:33]
Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op.56a [20:39]
CD 3 [74:40]
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77 [41:16]
Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op.102 [33:24]
CD 4 [75:26]
Serenade No.1 in D, Op.11 [50:41]
Serenade No.2 in A, Op.16 [24:51]
CD 5 [68:00]
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68 [54:12]
Academic Festival Overture, Op.80 [10:24]
CD 6 [77:47]
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73 [38:44]
Symphony No.3 in F, Op.90 [39:13]
CD 7 [71:56]
Symphony No.4 in E minor, Op.98 [40:34]
Hungarian Dances Nos.1 in G minor (orch Brahms) [3:21]; No.2 in D minor (orch. Johan Andreas Hallén (1846-1925)) [3:36]; No.3 in F (orch. Brahms) [2:53]; No.4 in F sharp minor (orch. Paul Juon (1872-1940)) [4:37]; No.5 in G minor (orch. Albert Parlow (?-1888)) [2:47]; No.6 in D flat (orch. Albert Parlow) [4:06]; No.7 in F (orch. A. Hallén (1846-1925)) [2:10]; No.8 in A minor (orch. R. Schollum) [3:34]; No.9 in E minor (orch. R. Schollum) [2:22]; No.10 in F (orch. Brahms) [1:56];
Claudio Arrau (piano), Henryk Szeryng (violin), János Starker (cello)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
rec. 1969-1980, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. ADD
DECCA 4782365 [7 CDs: 491:43]

Experience Classicsonline

Haitink's analogue Brahms returns like an old friend but not a blandly companionable friend. Haitink may not lay on the drama with a blazing trowel as Bruno Walter can but he certainly makes connection with the underlying emotional intelligence and is at times open to being swept along by the lava flow of the moment.

His conception of the First Piano Concerto and that of Chilean pianist Arrau allows for plenty of surging grandiloquence. In this the Royal Concertgebouw are breathtakingly apt partners. The collaborators here may not have the rawness of Serkin (review) but this is idyllically Apollonian music-making.

Analogue hiss is present in the Brahms Second Piano Concerto as it is throughout this set and is not compensated for in this case by any special voltage in the music-making. Everything seems smoothly resolved and thought through but I sensed little travail or spontaneity. That said, Arrau is joyously light of countenance in the finale. The violins are too fiercely rendered for my liking in this concerto. My preference for Serkin (Sony) and even Gilels (DG) is not displaced.

The Serenades represent Brahms limbering up for the symphonies. They have been successfully recorded over the years by the likes of Dirk Joeres (Regis and previously IMP) and with the greatest distinction by Boult (EMI). These Haitink readings do not play down the drama but there is more here of the smiling Brahms of the Haydn Variations and the Academic Festival. This is all lovingly done but the invention is more ceremonial and romantically florid perhaps in the manner later adopted by the Dane Ludolf Nielsen and the Swiss Franz Huber in their suites and symphonies respectively. Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw make a grand noise but the mood is closer to the Dvorák symphonies than to Brahms own later symphonies except perhaps the Second. They still make for truly classy entertainment music without searing the emotions - hunting-party cassations on a large scale.

In the symphonies Haitink leans toward the music's contented centre and it is this philosophic pull which is felt most strongly even in the most troublous episodes in the First Symphony. One does not feel the searing heat or the torrid conflict of Bruno Walter's classic cycles - both mono and stereo (Sony). However the late summer sun has rarely been heard to such grand and curvaceously undulating effect in the finale of the First. In this Haitink provides a link with the Serenades which glow so well under his direction. The volcanic upheaval in the last few minutes before the end of the work is handled with a gloriously fervent up-welling.

The Tragic Overture is the counterpart to his friend Dvorák's Othello. However Brahms did tragedy with so much more bite than Dvorák. Haitink confounded my expectations by producing a passionate Tragic Overture while at the same time reminding me how indebted Hamish MacCunn was to Brahms for his The Land of the Mountain and the Flood. The companion overture is the Academic Festival which in mood lies as much with the Serenades as the Tragic lies with the symphonies. It's most caringly shaped and beautifully recorded allowing for the immanent yet discreet hiss - the latter not something to put you off.

Haitink's Haydn Variations are centred and placid - a statement of calm and the philosophic mind even in the more animated sections. Delightful that each variation is separately tracked. all very satisfying and the Grazioso is the most lustrously fine I have ever heard. Rustling hall noise detracts nothing from this exceptionally fine Haydn Variations.

The Szeryng Violin Concerto also has its accompaniment of analogue hiss but this passionately coarse-toned soloist compensates in tempestuous drama. This is met more than half way by an elite orchestra and control room team. The concerto is a fine version which can stand alongside those by Repin (sadly undervalued) and Oistrakh.

The hiss in the Double Concerto is there but is lower key. Szeryng and Starker meld well and this is a passionate yet deliberate account of a work for which I have had a lifetime's affection. This was renewed in recent years by hearing the fervently flowing version on Chandos earlier this year and renewing my acquaintance with the golden age leonine up-close Rose and Stern version on Sony.

The Second Symphony is smoothly and life-enhancingly done. That late summer repose and petalled unfolding felt in the finale of the First is luminously apparent again here; sensationally so in the first and third movements. In the finale Haitink remarkably imbues the playing with an unusual fire which does not leave him chasing Walter's coat-tails - quite the reverse. In the Third Symphony Haitink again takes a similar approach. The joy of the finale is at 5:50 enhanced by the wondrously clear counter-pointing of higher and lower strings. I have not previously heard such fine separation and simultaneously experienced contrast.

The final disc includes his last symphony (No. 4) and the ten Hungarian Dances, three of them (1, 3, 10) orchestrated by Brahms. The first movement of this Fourth is placid yet not dull - more repose and some superbly placed trumpet solos against the rest of the orchestra. This spatial effect glowingly enhances proceedings. The joyous lightning-strike athleticism of the third movement works so well in Haitink's hands. That sprinting power and lordly confidence also shines out in a reading that vies with the finale. This is a work which has two surging finales one after the other. The first is the third movement which is marked joyous. The second (the true finale) is shown as energico e passionato. The markings are interchangeable as mood indications.

Haitink revels in the Hungarian Dances which are given with joyous abandon and breathless zigeuner exuberance - try Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 10. The others are leisurely romantic, chirpily innocent, falteringly seductive or stately and all benefit from the 1980 technology of this recording - the youngest here.

The notes are compact and are from the pen of Jeremy Hayes. The CD envelopes are sensibly designed with a stepped lip so the disc falls naturally into the pocket without hassle or any real challenge to dimming eyesight. The box snuggly holds all seven discs and booklet without a wasted millimetre. The same goes for its companion also under review the DG-originated Pletnev Tchaikovsky symphonies and tone poems. More of that later.

There you have it. All the Brahms orchestral music including the 'cinderella' works - the Serenades - in surprisingly good readings. There are some moments where Homer nods but the coincident visions of Haitink and Brahms radiate integrity and often excitement. I have perhaps underestimated Haitink alongside Walter.

Rob Barnett






Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

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.