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Brahms: The Symphonies / Maurice Abravanel, Utah Symphony


Release Date: 08/12/2003 
Label:  Vanguard   Catalog #: 1184   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Maurice Abravanel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Utah Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

It's a strange fact that conductors very well known for other kinds of music written in a very different style often do quite well by Brahms: think of Antal Dorati, James Levine, or Georg Solti, just to name three. So it is with Maurice Abravanel. We all know that the Utah Symphony is not going to compete with the world's best ensembles in this music: the strings lack heft, the horns and trombones aren't especially golden-toned, and the winds lack the ultimate in character now and then. But then, few orchestras were more terrible in this music than the wartime Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwängler, and no one especially cares how badly they played; nor was the NBC Symphony under Toscanini all that special, however much he was able to Read more browbeat them into submission. No, we listen to those performances because of the conducting, and while I wouldn't go so far as to call Abravanel another Furtwängler or Toscanini, suffice it to say that he does very good Brahms.


Take, for example, the excellent account of the Third Symphony, the one that neither Toscanini nor Furtwängler (especially!) ever figured out how to play. Abravanel knows. His swift opening movement, flowing Andante, and turbulent but never hysterical finale capture the work's peculiar emotional ambiance--so delicately poised between angry passion and nostalgia--as well as anyone. The same holds true of the Fourth Symphony. You may hear finer accounts of the scherzo, but the urgent opening proves quite powerful, and no one does the opening and closing pages of the finale any better. Listen to those horns really snarl as the passacaglia theme sinks into the orchestra's depths! Similarly, the finale of the Second Symphony manages the necessary flurry of excitement and a real accelerando into the coda, but it never sounds merely frantic or spins out of control. Only the First Symphony lacks the monumentality and strength that the best German-style performances give it; but for some there's certainly nothing wrong with that.


Sonically these transfers sound generally very good, with a nice bass response, focused timpani, and aptly forward placement of the winds. Given the fact that you get all four symphonies on two discs at a rock-bottom price, this set should win an easy place in most collections. It's not a first choice, perhaps, but I can't imagine anyone being seriously disappointed with such cogent, urgent, and classically poised music making.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

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

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