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Brahms / Abbado, Berliner Philharmoniker [5-CD Set]

Abbado / Berliner Philharmoniker
Release Date: 07/08/2014 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 002065002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Marjana Lipovsek
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic OrchestraErnst Senff Chamber ChoirBerlin Radio Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


If this set were all that survived from Abbado’s tenure in Berlin, collectors would be salivating for additional recordings, certain that they would reveal further evidence of an astonishingly high quality of performance and interpretation. Well, we have those recordings, and sadly very few of them rise to this level. Abbado’s Brahms features all of his patented care for detail, but with none of the chronic fussiness that marred too much of his late work, and the programming concept is brilliant.

Each disc features (with one exception) a short orchestral work, a choral work, and then a symphony: in short, a complete Brahms recital designed to offer maximum contrast and variety. Disc
Read more One offers the Academic Festival Overture, Gesang der Parzen, and the First Symphony. Disc Two has the Alto Rhapsody (Marjana Lipovsek a fine soloist) and the Second Symphony. Disc Three couples the Tragic Overture with the Shicksalslied and the Third Symphony, while Disc Four fills out the series with the Haydn Variations, Nänie, and the Fourth Symphony.

It’s a great way to experience both the familiar and less familiar sides of the composer. There’s also a “bonus” in the form of Abbado’s recordings of the two serenades, the First a live outing with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra whose soft edge doesn’t quite rise to the level found in the symphonies, and the Second with the Berlin Philhamronic–very fine and well-paced. In the symphonies, Abbado takes the first movement exposition repeats in the Second and Third, but omits that in the First, a decision with which I agree on account of the lengthy introduction and the awkward abruptness of the return to the opening as Brahms wrote it.

The outstanding qualities of these performances can be summed up easily. First, there is the wide (but not exaggerated) dynamic range, which heightens the music’s drama without the need to distort the phrasing for effect. One suspects that Brahms would have approved. You can hear this quite clearly at the start of the Tragic Overture, where the contrast between soft and loud in the opening theme is tremendously exciting. Then, there is Abbado’s natural feel for tempo. For example, in the coda of the Third Symphony’s first movement, he steps on the gas subtlety, but distinctly, creating an extra burst of energy just when the music demands it, but in a way that doesn’t sectionalize the form.

Add to that exceptionally well-judged balances–even the soft opening the Second Symphony’s finale gains in tension thanks to the clarity of the bass line–and the result is a Brahms cycle that stands with the best available, but doesn’t sound exactly like any of them. The sonics are also some of the best from this source, and the two choirs (Berlin Radio and Ernst Senff) sing the choral works very beautifully, as well as clearly. Now that Abbado is gone, let this set be the testament of his often troubled and patchy years in Berlin.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Marjana Lipovsek (Alto)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Ernst Senff Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Venue:  Berlin Philharmonie 
Length: 13 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: German 
2.
Song of Destiny, Op. 54 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Ernst Senff Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868-1871; Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1989 
Venue:  Berlin Philharmonie 
Length: 16 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Language: German 
3.
Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1990 
Venue:  Berlin Philharmonie 
Length: 12 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Language: German 
4.
Nänie, Op. 82 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1881; Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1991 
Venue:  Schauspielhaus, Berlin 
Length: 13 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Language: German 
5.
Variations in B flat major on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56a "St. Anthony" by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 
6.
Tragic Overture, Op. 81 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Austria 
7.
Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1885; Austria 
8.
Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Austria 
9.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 73 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Austria 
10.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1876; Austria 
11.
Serenade no 2 in A major, Op. 16 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858-1859; Germany 
12.
Serenade no 1 in D major, Op. 11 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1858; Germany 
13.
Academic Festival Overture in C minor, Op. 80 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Austria 

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