This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
"In almost every respect this is an ideal performance of the Fourth Symphony. A skilfully managed blend of classical strength and lyrical warmth is ostentatiously evident in the first movement, whose basic tempo, perfectly chosen, is underpinned by a strong pulse. The rocking accompaniments in the bass just after fig. C, for instance (1'47'' and onwards) register clearly and cleanly, and provide a vital rhythmic commentary on the melodic line, whereas so often these figures are either understated or played in a lumbering fashion which drains away the music's inner life. Ashkenazy conducts in a slightly self-effacing manner, but there's a good deal of strength and determination in his direction, too, and a touching warmth. Clearly he
cherishes the music's emotional content, but as we have already seen he pays sensitive attention to detail, and his overall architectural grasp is unerring.
The first movement is succeeded by a perfectly paced, perfectly proportioned account of the Andante. Here the ebb and flow of the musical argument, the rise and fall of tension, are conveyed with the greatest fidelity, and considerable beauty of utterance. It is in the third movement only that Ashkenazy's performance falls below par. Everything is just as it should be in a way, but there's a slight lack of boisterous Brahmsian energy and weight. In the finale Ashkenazy draws the passacaglia 'variations' together very adroitly, bringing out the differing personality of each episode, but maintaining overall shape and momentum towards a well-judged climax...If I prefer Ashkenazy's well-recorded performance as being an almost ideal representation of the score and the best of modern versions, I cannot quite suggest, alas, that it possesses real greatness of the kind which is provided by Carlos Kleiber and Toscanini, whose performances really do burn in the imagination and memory. Decca's new issue has, however, an enterprising coupling in the shape of a bright, characterful account of Rubbra's curiously un-Brahmsian orchestration of the Handel Variations. This certainly has much more personality and wit than Jarvi's somewhat penny-plain account of the score."
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms
Written: 1884-1885; Austria
Variations and Fugue for Piano in B flat major on a theme by Handel, Op. 24 by Johannes Brahms
Written: 1861; Germany
Notes: Orchestrated: Edmund Rubbra (1938)
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