Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
CD 1 [75:48]
Symphony No. 1 (1868) [41:46]
Symphony No. 3 (1883) [34:02]
CD 2 [76:30]
Symphony No. 2 (1869) [37:18]
Symphony No. 4 (1885) [39:12]
London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dora´ti
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dora´ti (No.2)
rec. Watford Town Hall, June 1959 (1); July 1963 (3, 4); Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, Dec 1957. ADD
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802079 [75:48 + 76:30]
Here is Brahms in late 1950s analogue stereo sound courtesy of Wilma Cozart and Harold Lawrence. It has bark and bite both as sound and in performance style. Dorati delivers whiplash, lunge, parry and recoil. This is exciting Brahms and no mistake. It’s not without affection but Dorati clearly favours red-hot adrenaline over autumnal leaf-fall. Listen to the rafter-shaking almost Tchaikovskian burst he puts on in the last four minutes of the First Symphony and in the last two movements of the Fourth. Dorati’s brand of predatory concentration is well to the fore.
The Third is my particular favourite since ‘learning’ the work from the Bruno Walter Columbia reading. Dorati keeps the music-making on a high flame and that shark-attack hammer-blow can be appreciated especially in the finale. The Second Symphony is not without dramatic episodes but the overarching peace is picked up by Dorati in a reading that is slower by a couple of minutes than Sawallisch’s EMI Classics recording with the LPO. For the Fourth Symphony we are back to the gripping and driven impatience of symphonies 1 and 3. The orchestra has a thunderous and shuddering bass and its very powerfully caught by the microphones. Stand back from the blast furnace door!
I remain very deeply impressed with the ‘philosopher’s stone’ of Giulini’s VPO Brahms also from Newton. Dorati by contrast delivers virtuoso and sometimes angrily impatient Brahms with the turbocharger fully engaged. It’s like the difference between 1970s Boult Elgar and 1970s Solti Elgar. Brahms cycles from Loughran and Haitink also stand at the other pole from Dorati. With the analogue era audio comes a degree of background hiss – a small price to pay for such exciting music-making. The notes are by Anthony Burton though nothing about Dorati.
Impatient and intemperate Brahms – invincible and heart-singing when you are in the right mood. A great palate freshener when you have had your fill of the musing and the contemplative.

Rob Barnett
Impatient, intemperate, invincible. Stand back from the blast furnace door!