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Brahms: Symphonies No 3 & 4 / Daniel Harding, Et Al

Release Date: 07/17/2007 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 91330   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Daniel Harding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRAHMS Symphonies: No. 3 in F; No. 4 in e Daniel Harding, cond; German CP Bremen VIRGIN 91330 (73:58)

Re-released at midprice by EMI, parent company of Virgin Classics, these studio recordings were made in 2000 (Symphony No. 4) and 2001 (Symphony No. 3). I did not hear them when they first appeared, so they are new to me; and I have to say I am very impressed.

Not necessarily the most technically difficult of his symphonies for the players, Brahms’s Third is probably the Read more most difficult for the conductor. The challenge is to find the right balance and contrasts between four movements that seem somehow less differentiated in their tempos and orchestral textures than is the expected norm. Adding to the conductor’s dilemma is the ambiguous, even enigmatic musical content and emotional intent of the score. Frei aber froh is the epigram—F-A?-F—but how happy is the A? intruder in Brahms’s home key of F Major? Is it a question—“Free but happy?”—with the A? its equivocal “but?” At one moment we seem to be in the Viennese waltz world of Johann Strauss, albeit a surreal one, and the next moment we are swept up in an onslaught of savage violence. The concluding movement in particular, until it dissipates in calm reflection of the symphony’s opening motto, is a rampage of brutality. This is preparation for the final catastrophe of the Fourth Symphony. Harding’s reading of this movement is among the most relentlessly threatening and turbulent I know. He drives his Bremen forces hard, and they respond with all they’ve got. This is a magnificent performance—on a par with the excellent and recommended recent Marin Alsop recording with the London Philharmonic on Naxos—and yes, the first movement exposition repeat is taken.

Few who listen to Brahms’s Fourth Symphony fail to hear in it a grim, remorseless, inexorable march to doom. In dispensing with the first movement exposition repeat (the only one of his symphonies in which he does so), Brahms makes it clear that there is only one way for this voyage of the damned to proceed—forward on its preordained appointment with disaster and annihilation. As in the Third Symphony, Harding gets it. He gets the despair of the first movement, the tragic tread of the second movement, the frenzied hysteria of the third, and the final rush to oblivion of the fourth. Here then is a tremendously powerful account of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony that I place beside a recent and equally outstanding entry from Marcus Bosch and the Aachen Symphony Orchestra, and with a phenomenal reading by Giulini and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on EMI.

I’m sorry I missed Harding’s CD the first time around. For now, this may be my favorite Fourth. Obviously recommended, but why have we not had a First and Second from these same forces?

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Daniel Harding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2001 
Venue:  Studio Stollberger, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 35 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Daniel Harding
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1885; Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  Studio Stollberger, Cologne, Germany 
Length: 28 Minutes 4 Secs. 

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