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Brahms: Symphonies / Berglund, Chamber Orchestra Of Europe

Brahms / Chamber Orchestra Of Europe / Berglund
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 1229  
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Number of Discs: 3 
Length: 2 Hours 42 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Like Paavo Berglund’s Sibelius symphony recordings, also with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, these Brahms performances inject a certain novelty that will be appreciated especially by the listener who has wearied of them due to excessive repetition. While these are not radically desiccated renditions in the manner of Chailly or Harnoncourt, the COE’s smaller-scaled string body does require a bit of time at first for your ear to adjust to the thinner timbres. But the reward is a harvest of inner detail, much of it barely audible in full-size orchestral performances (but well captured by Ondine’s vivid recordings), which continually surprises and delights.

Symphony No. 2 once again earns its “sunny” descriptor as the strings
Read more offer a sweet singing tone that caresses Brahms’ beautiful melodies. Berglund’s perfectly-judged tempos and immaculately balanced ensemble beguile here, and also in Symphony No. 3, where the elusive first movement’s syncopated bass line and clever contrapuntal writing break through to the sonic surface. The entire symphony sounds so fresh that you couldn’t let your attention wander if you wanted to.

The more austere Fourth Symphony yields less easily to Berglund’s approach: the music wants more heft than the otherwise excellent COE players provide, but the lighter textures show the work in a different light: the first movement now sounds interestingly like one of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.

Stripping down Symphony No. 1’s traditionally heavy textures (as found with Klemperer, Giulini, Tennstedt, Karajan, et. al) results in a light, lean, and somewhat anemic sound that belies the music’s implied Sturm und Drang. However, Berglund’s quickish pacing and unforced phrasing makes the first movement, and indeed the entire symphony, feel more like one of Brahms’ large-scale chamber works (the Andante sostenuto slow movement especially gains from this treatment). But Berglund, perhaps in trying to avoid making the finale into a “Beethoven’s Tenth”, gives it a rather too-straightforward treatment, making the grand conclusion sound a bit matter-of-fact.

Ultimately, Berglund’s performances constitute an alternative side-trip that fascinates while you are on it, but makes you newly appreciate the burnished warmth and tonal richness of, say, the Vienna Philharmonic or Cleveland Orchestra once you return home. Nonetheless, the recordings are totally worth hearing for their above-mentioned qualities. Recommended.

-- Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1876; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/2000 
Venue:  Live  Festival Hall, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 44 Minutes 32 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 73 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/2000 
Venue:  Live  Festival Hall, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 43 Minutes 30 Secs. 
3.
Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/2000 
Venue:  Live  Festival Hall, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 36 Minutes 0 Secs. 
4.
Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1885; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/2000 
Venue:  Live  Festival Hall, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 37 Minutes 43 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68: I. Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68: II. Andante sostenuto
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68: III. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68: IV. Adagio - Piu andante - Allegro non troppo ma con brio
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73: I. Allegro non troppo
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73: II. Adagio non troppo
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73: III. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andantino) - Presto, ma non assai
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73: IV. Allegro con spirito

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