This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Even making no allowance for price, this is an outstanding issue. The Hallé, neglected for so long by the record companies, amply confirms the promise of Loughran's first CFP issue last month, p. 511 (Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 on CFP40065). Maybe the very length of absence from the studios has helped the Hallé players to give their utmost in these sessions, for it is the urgency of this performance which grips you from first to last, not necessarily in fast tempi but in the resilience of rhythm, the sweep of phrasing and the incisiveness of attack in such passages as the fugato in the slow movement. I cannot help thinking of this as young man's Brahms, passionate and full of fresh discovery. What does it matter, Loughran
seems to say, if forte becomes fortissimo on the reprise of the scherzo, the dynamic contrasts ever more sharply contrasted? It is a mark of his powers that his tempo for this third movement is on the slow side but one hardly registers that, with the marking giocoso made the more apparent in joyfully bucolic rhythms.
Loughran also shows his metal in the way that – in the Barbirolli tradition – he can so convincingly adopt art expressive style without varying the basic tempo of a movement more than a fraction. I think of such moments as the expansive high violin phrase at bar 91 in the first movement and the great cello melody in the slow movement. I note also the consistency of tempo in the finale, where, passionate as he is, Loughran resists all temptation to whip up excitement in accelerando. You might even count his più Allegro at the end as not fast enough, but there again he is very much in line with Barbirolli, whose older Halle version has rightly been a standard bargain recommendation in this symphony for years.
Loughran with warm and resonant modern recording naturally scores in terms of sound quality at every point, not just in relation to Barbirolli but over Walter too, whose glaring CBS recording detracts rather from his gloriously mellow interpretation. On the other hand the CFP sound is not quite so rich and ample as that given by the EMI engineers to Boult, and the LPO ensemble is a degree more polished than that of the Hallé. The very first octave B for the violins at the start of the symphony is not ideally sweet for example, but generally it is the restored warmth of Halle string tone, the stylishness of the woodwind, and the opulence of the horn tone (so vital in Brahms) that one notes, not any reservation. As last month with Rachmaninov I have found myself naturally treating this as a direct competitor to top-price issues. I have certainly enjoyed it as much as any reading in the catalogue. I only hope the rest of the Hallé Brahms cycle will match this achievement.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [10/1974, reviewing the original LP release of the 4th Symphony]
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