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Brahms: The Symphonies / Nelsons, Boston Symphony


Release Date: 05/26/2017 
Label:  Boston Symphony Orch   Catalog #: 34  
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

With this release, Andris Nelsons becomes only the second musical director of the Boston Symphony to record all four Brahms symphonies with the orchestra; the first was Erich Leinsdorf, while Bernard Haitink recorded his Boston cycle during his stint as the orchestra’s principal guest conductor.

Nelsons’ broad pacing for the First symphony’s introduction is similar to Charles Munch’s recording with the same orchestra, but without the older conductor’s leaner textures and firmer inner rhythm. Although the Allegretto’s triplet motives are smoothed over to a fault, the well-contoured interplay between the winds and strings compensates. The finale’s introduction projects requisite drama and mystery, although the Allegro, while
Read more unquestionably well played, doesn’t quite match the tautness and exultation that Giulini delivers in his even slower Los Angeles Philharmonic performance.

The brass players’ prominence in the development of the Second symphony’s first movement underlines the dissonances in Brahms’ contrapuntal writing that other conductors tend to minimize, while the Adagio benefits from Nelsons’ shapely and animated approach, together with some delicious “old school” string portamentos. The finale is robust and exciting, although the coda seems a bit square when compared to more soaring, less emphatic Chicago traversals under Solti and Levine.

Nelsons begins the Third symphony at an optimistic clip that takes the composer’s “Con brio” directive literally, only to slow down within more conventional parameters as the movement progresses. Unfortunately, the conductor imposes cloying dynamic hairpins that sentimentalize and trivialize the Poco Allegretto, notwithstanding the superb horn soloist. Out of curiosity, I pulled down Furtwängler’s Berlin Philharmonic RIAS performance from April 1954, thinking I’d find something similar. Instead, I was struck by Furtwängler’s directness and vitality (sound clips).

The Fourth symphony proves to be Nelsons’ most consistently satisfying performance in the cycle. Some may find the basic pulse relaxation in the first-movement development a shade fussy or self-aware, yet Nelsons generates palpable tension in how he balances the woodwinds and the sustained bass lines. The passacaglia finale receives a reading as focused and unified as there can be, with welcome attention to the trombones. It’s not so incisive nor energetic when measured alongside Wand/NDR or Dohnányi/Cleveland, but few recordings are.

There can be no doubt that Nelsons is upholding his orchestra’s great legacy.

– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1876; Austria 
2.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 73 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Austria 
3.
Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Austria 
4.
Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1885; Austria 

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