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Brahms: Symphony No 2, Double Concerto / Haitink, London So

Release Date: 01/13/2004 
Label:  Lso Live   Catalog #: 43   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Gordan NikolicTimothy Hugh
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Haitink revisits Brahms in these imposing and beautifully shaded new accounts.

Labels such as LSO Live bring altered priorities and fresh perspectives. When did a studio-based company last contemplate recording Brahms’s Double Concerto with soloists drawn from within the orchestra? The only widely collected versions of the concerto using front-desk players that I can think of are Toscanini’s, with Mischakoff and Miller, and Furtwängler’s with Boskovsky and Brabec.

Brahms wrote the work with Joachim and his colleague in the Joachim Quartet, Robert Hausmann, in mind. Like Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K364, it has a chamber-music dimension to it (shades of those glorious piano trios and the sublime F
Read more major Cello Sonata) yet it’s also a work of real symphonic power, what Malcolm MacDonald has called Brahms’s ‘most perfect fusion of symphonic dynamism and lyric ardour’.

One of the earliest – and best – recordings featured Thibaud and Casals, consummate chamber musicians who also had the measure of the larger argument. Were it not for Cortot’s shaky conducting, it would be an all-time classic. As for the orchestra-based versions, Toscanini, alas, rules his distinguished soloists with a rod of iron. Furtwängler is wiser by far but digital remastering has made the string sound on an otherwise glorious performance seem coarse and unwelcoming.

The first thing to note about this exceptional new disc is the superb quality of Haitink’s accompaniment – if ‘accompaniment’ adequately describes so trenchant a marshalling of the musical facts allied to an imaginative flexibility which allows the soloists to count themselves kings of infinite space in the lyric outpourings at the heart of the work. The sweet-toned Gordan Nikolitch and the burlier-sounding, though endlessly responsive, Tim Hugh are perfectly matched one to the other and grow ever closer and more eloquent as the romantic, at times almost operatic, colloquy of the two opening movements unfolds. After which, slippered ease and remembered passion is the order of the day in a sweetly judged reading of the finale. The recording, rich and immediate, brings out in gratifying measure the tactile quality of Brahms’s writing.

It used to be the case, as Monteux’s 1962 recording of the Second Symphony confirms, that the LSO lacked an accredited ‘Brahms sound’. This is no longer the case, though there remains an element of ‘what you require, we provide’ in the orchestra’s approach to Brahms. Haitink’s 1990 Boston recording of the symphony has a certain Mediterranean glow to it. In this imposing and beautifully shaded new LSO performance, we return north again with a reading that is weightier and even more cleanly articulated than his 1973 Amsterdam version. Haitink, I sense, loves the work but remains troubled by it, which is as it should be. This has always been a more troubling piece than the pastoralists and mañana merchants would have us believe.

-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone [3/2004]
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 73 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/2003 
Venue:  Live  Barbican, London, England 
Length: 41 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op. 102 "Double" by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Gordan Nikolic (Violin), Timothy Hugh (Cello)
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/2003 
Venue:  Live  Barbican, London, England 
Length: 33 Minutes 35 Secs. 

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