Author Topic: Brahms Symphony Cycles  (Read 52093 times)

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Offline Judith

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #180 on: April 07, 2018, 11:59:54 PM »
Love the Muti set with Philadelphia Ochestra. His 4th is best that I have heard:)

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #181 on: April 08, 2018, 12:42:54 AM »
This is fantastic!
Smaller ensemble, small bore trombones, 19th century horns, little to no vibrato...perhaps not everyone’s cup of Brahms, but these performances are thrilling, never dull, and brilliant in their clarity and execution of these gorgeous scores. Sweepingly romantic it is, but not in the broad manner of Bernstein or Thielemann. It’s more in the family of Gardiner’s HIP cycle with ORR, which I believe will be replaced with SCO/Ticciati as my new top choice for ‘smaller-sized’ Brahms cycle. 
I’m very interested in reading some of your thoughts, and I’ll add more of my own later...I’m using my phone and it’s taking me forever just to type this post  :'(  ;D




Interesting. I think Gardiner does some things fantastically well. His Brahms certainly has a bite to it and he doesn't gloss over the orchestration like he does with Schumann, even if the orchestration itself isn't anything particularly noteworthy. He brings a freshness to the score with his attention to timbre, some articulation and definitely bring life to the music at the intersection of rhythm/metre and phrasing. The only thing I don't like about his interpretations in general is where he is very conservative and limited in his expressive rubato and tempo changes. That, and the strange but beautiful sound of pretty much 0% vibrato on every note...it doesn't seem to work equally well on every note that Brahms writes I think and limits the expressive possibilities that can make Brahms sound so good w.

However, I am curious to hear this other version you recommend. Do you find it very similar to Gardiner? Have you heard Berglund's recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe?

Offline Biffo

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #182 on: April 08, 2018, 01:42:15 AM »
For me, Gardiner got off to a very bad start to his cycle with No 1 - he pulls the music about horribly. This put me off collecting the rest of the cycle though I did eventually buy No 4 which is a lot better performance.

Ticciati is following in the footsteps of Sir Charles Mackerras who recorded a very fine Brahms cycle with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Mackerras uses 'Vienna' horns in F, rotary-valve trumpets and narrow-bore trombones; he has a string section of 10,8,6,6, and 4, typical of an orchestra of Brahms' time.

I have Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in No 1 but it is a long time since I listened to and need to refresh my memory.

Mackerras remains my favourite for these chamber/HIP preformances though I may have to give Ticciati a try.

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #183 on: April 08, 2018, 02:04:19 AM »
For me, Gardiner got off to a very bad start to his cycle with No 1 - he pulls the music about horribly. This put me off collecting the rest of the cycle though I did eventually buy No 4 which is a lot better performance.

Ticciati is following in the footsteps of Sir Charles Mackerras who recorded a very fine Brahms cycle with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Mackerras uses 'Vienna' horns in F, rotary-valve trumpets and narrow-bore trombones; he has a string section of 10,8,6,6, and 4, typical of an orchestra of Brahms' time.

I have Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in No 1 but it is a long time since I listened to and need to refresh my memory.

Mackerras remains my favourite for these chamber/HIP preformances though I may have to give Ticciati a try.

What do you mean by 'pulls the music about horribly?' Is there something in his phrasing that you feel disjoints the composition? Does his use of tempo or rubato not find any connection to dynamic and articulation to create a good sense of musicality?

I find it interesting that you mention that size orchestra is typical of Brahms' time as I was always under the impression that the size of orchestras were very much dependent on the size of the venue that music was being performed in or what musicians were available. Like, a very big hall might have 18 first violins and 4 flutes to compensate for the larger string section whereas a smaller hall might even have 10 first violins and 2 flutes like in the Mackerras version. Also, I think it was even customary to change the orchestration itself depending on what is available or even what a conductor would wish to make. I am unaware of any strict standard for the 19th century orchestra, but if there was I would be extremely grateful for you to enlighten me a little more.

Offline Biffo

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #184 on: April 08, 2018, 02:38:06 AM »
What do you mean by 'pulls the music about horribly?' Is there something in his phrasing that you feel disjoints the composition? Does his use of tempo or rubato not find any connection to dynamic and articulation to create a good sense of musicality?

I find it interesting that you mention that size orchestra is typical of Brahms' time as I was always under the impression that the size of orchestras were very much dependent on the size of the venue that music was being performed in or what musicians were available. Like, a very big hall might have 18 first violins and 4 flutes to compensate for the larger string section whereas a smaller hall might even have 10 first violins and 2 flutes like in the Mackerras version. Also, I think it was even customary to change the orchestration itself depending on what is available or even what a conductor would wish to make. I am unaware of any strict standard for the 19th century orchestra, but if there was I would be extremely grateful for you to enlighten me a little more.

It is difficult for me to describe the unpleasant sensation JEG' Brahms 1 made on me - probably it is, as you say, his phrasing that disjoints the work.

The notes for the Mackerras recordings states that the strings are in 'approximately the numbers of German town orchestra of Brahms' time'.They also say that 'European orchestras came in a wide variety of sizes but there was a general tendency for them to expand during Brahms' life. For instance, the Leipzig Gewandhaus had 44 players in 1839...72 in 1881...and 98 in 1890....The Vienna Philharmonic had 78 players in 1864, 100 in 1885 and 114 in 1910'

The Meiningen Court Orchestra (Brahms' favourite) had 49 players and when they performed the 4th symphony in 1886 Brahms declined the offer to augment the string section.



ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #185 on: April 08, 2018, 03:57:35 AM »
It is difficult for me to describe the unpleasant sensation JEG' Brahms 1 made on me - probably it is, as you say, his phrasing that disjoints the work.

The notes for the Mackerras recordings states that the strings are in 'approximately the numbers of German town orchestra of Brahms' time'.They also say that 'European orchestras came in a wide variety of sizes but there was a general tendency for them to expand during Brahms' life. For instance, the Leipzig Gewandhaus had 44 players in 1839...72 in 1881...and 98 in 1890....The Vienna Philharmonic had 78 players in 1864, 100 in 1885 and 114 in 1910'

The Meiningen Court Orchestra (Brahms' favourite) had 49 players and when they performed the 4th symphony in 1886 Brahms declined the offer to augment the string section.




Very cool and interesting! I guess we can conclude that Brahms himself was a fan of smaller bands? :)

Offline San Antone

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #186 on: April 08, 2018, 04:12:46 AM »
Haven't heard Ticciati yet, but I was very taken with the Dausgaard Symphony No. 1 with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. 



I haven't heard his No. 2 yet, which has gotten mixed reviews (well, some didn't like this No. 1, either).

I am interested in hearing Dausgaard's Brahms.  I listened to his Mahler 10th this morning and it was nice, although I am not a fan of the completions and stopped listening shortly into II.  The Adagio was very enjoyable for me, though.

One thing I thought I heard in the Ticciati Brahms 3rd, which I listened to was a small, but noticeable, amount of portamento by the strings.  Overall I was impressed with the sound of the orchestra and his interpretation.  I have been a fan of both the Gardiner and Andrew Manze Brahms symphony cycles; this one by Ticciati will join those as my preferred recordings.

Offline André

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #187 on: April 08, 2018, 04:50:46 AM »
Very cool and interesting! I guess we can conclude that Brahms himself was a fan of smaller bands? :)

I don’t think we can conclude in that direction. It has more to do with the adequation between size of the concert venue and the orchestral forces to ideally match the acoustics.

I may be old hat when it comes to vibrato, but Brahms senza vibrato iis smply heretic to me. It just does not fit the length and shape of the musical phrases. Pierre Monteux knew Brahms (played for him in his string quartet) and he was his favourite composer. He never played his symphonies in that way.

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #188 on: April 08, 2018, 05:07:47 AM »
I don’t think we can conclude in that direction. It has more to do with the adequation between size of the concert venue and the orchestral forces to ideally match the acoustics.

I may be old hat when it comes to vibrato, but Brahms senza vibrato iis smply heretic to me. It just does not fit the length and shape of the musical phrases. Pierre Monteux knew Brahms (played for him in his string quartet) and he was his favourite composer. He never played his symphonies in that way.

That makes a lot of sense.

I think Brahms senza vibrato would be heretic even in his time, when he would even go out of his way to notate articulations in his scores (double hairpin accents) where players should use heavy vibrato (rather than regular vibrato) as means to accent certain notes. It was simply customary to do this, as many written accounts describing orchestral string vibrato show that there were many different varieties of it for different purposes depending on what the composer and/or conductor wanted.

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #189 on: April 08, 2018, 05:16:35 AM »
I tried to post this article as an attachment but the file size was too large, so I am sending it as a dropbox link for anyone curious enough to have a read. It goes into a lot of examples detailing the different varieties an purposes of orchestral vibrato in the 19th to early 20th century and makes for a very interesting read.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/fdq9hz0ri9gty0v/Vibrato.pdf?dl=0

Offline San Antone

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #190 on: April 08, 2018, 08:59:51 AM »
I don’t think we can conclude in that direction. It has more to do with the adequation between size of the concert venue and the orchestral forces to ideally match the acoustics.

I may be old hat when it comes to vibrato, but Brahms senza vibrato iis smply heretic to me. It just does not fit the length and shape of the musical phrases. Pierre Monteux knew Brahms (played for him in his string quartet) and he was his favourite composer. He never played his symphonies in that way.

Except from a historical point, I really am not interested in what Brahms preferred, or Pierre Monteux for that matter.  Today, in 2018, some conductors and orchestras are playing Brahms in a manner which may have no relation to what Brahms preferred, but to my ears sounds wonderful.

That is what is important to me.

Offline André

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #191 on: April 08, 2018, 09:40:07 AM »
Sure. You can make your grandmother’s goulash with no paprika. Maybe you should give it another name, then.

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #192 on: April 08, 2018, 11:32:30 AM »
I tried to post this article as an attachment but the file size was too large, so I am sending it as a dropbox link for anyone curious enough to have a read. It goes into a lot of examples detailing the different varieties an purposes of orchestral vibrato in the 19th to early 20th century and makes for a very interesting read.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/fdq9hz0ri9gty0v/Vibrato.pdf?dl=0

Thanks a lot for sharing!
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Offline amw

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #193 on: April 10, 2018, 01:24:29 AM »
My favourite cycle is still the Böhm Vienna DGG. Böhm secures powerful and sonorous yet lean and forward-moving performances from the WP.

Giulini WP, Walter Columbia Symph, Haitink Amsterdam, Kertesz WP, Karajan BP('64), Mackerras and Ansermet are also very good ones, securing different aspects of the wide brahmsian spectrum of emotions and musical syntax.

Not too enthusiastic about "favourite" oldies such as Boult, Barbirolli, Jochum BP or Klemperer. Tomy ears they have aged somewhat.

Podium:

1- Böhm and the BRSO (Orfeo) or BPO (DGG). Much loved also : Giulini and the LAPO, Munch BSO, Haitink Concertgebouw.
2 - Abbado and the BP (DGG 1969, one of his earliest recordings - NOT the more rigid 2000-something later recording), Giulini LAPO. This is a difficult symphony to get right.
3- Walter and the Columbia Symphony (CBS-Sony). By a long mile. Wand and the NDR (Hamburg).
4- Haitink Concertgebouw, Böhm WP, both from around 1971. Fischer-Dieskau and the Czech Philharmonic (Supraphon).

My personal build-a-cycle mono + stereo + alternative:

1 - Furtwängler 1951 + Jochum LPO + Thielemann
2 - Walter NYPO + Dohnányi Cleveland + Norrington LCP
3 - Walter VPO + Kempe BPO + Mackerras
4 - Kempe BPO + Jochum LPO + Dohnányi Philharmonia

As far as complete cycles go, Kempe/BPO mixes mono and stereo recordings but all four symphonies are indispensable regardless of provenance; Kertész is consistently in the top four or five in every symphony; likewise Jochum/LPO, definitely preferable to the Berlin recordings; I also prefer Walter with the NY Phil over Walter with the Columbia Phil (though the Columbia 3rd is preferable to the NY one, if not as good as the Vienna one, which is from 1936 and is my benchmark recording of the symphony). Norrington's early recordings with the London Classical Players are my favourite in the chamber orchestra/HIP contingent, with much more individuality and expressive power than most of the sets that followed, granting an exception to Mackerras for his 3rd and 4th.

Other cycles worth acquiring: Kubelík/Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, especially if you're a SOBR stan like me; either of the Dohnányis (Cleveland is slightly better overall, but lacks the superb timpani player of the Philharmonia); Jurowski/LPO.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2018, 01:26:52 AM by amw »

Offline NikF

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #194 on: April 13, 2018, 02:22:34 AM »
This thread makes for interesting reading. Although a small number compared to some, I've nine 14 Brahms symphony cycles. But I only listen to a few of them. I can't choose a favourite from them.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2018, 02:24:08 AM by NikF »
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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #195 on: April 13, 2018, 02:26:30 AM »
This thread makes for interesting reading. Although a small number compared to some, I've nine 14 Brahms symphony cycles. But I only listen to a few of them. I can't choose a favourite from them.

Which are the few that you listen to?
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Offline NikF

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #196 on: April 13, 2018, 02:39:16 AM »
Which are the few that you listen to?

It varies. Probably Abbado/Berlin and Eschenbach/Houston Symphony. Then again, I'm fond of Wand/NDR and Schmidt-Isserstedt/Hamburg Radio Symphony.
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Offline Draško

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #197 on: April 24, 2018, 03:26:12 PM »
For a cycle I'd probably go for Abbado or one of the Walters. As for build-your-own-cycle for me it seems to be the VPO with assorted conductors  ::)

1. Fischer/Budapest, Krips/VPO
2. Monteux/VPO, Furtwangler/VPO ('45)
3. Walter/VPO, Krauss/VPO, Bohm/VPO ('53), Koussevitzky/Boston, Levine/VPO
4. Kleiber/VPO, Markevitch/Lamoureux, Furtwangler/VPO ('50), Fischer/Budapest

Online PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Brahms Symphony Cycles
« Reply #198 on: April 24, 2018, 04:37:09 PM »
I don’t think we can conclude in that direction. It has more to do with the adequation between size of the concert venue and the orchestral forces to ideally match the acoustics.

I may be old hat when it comes to vibrato, but Brahms senza vibrato iis smply heretic to me. It just does not fit the length and shape of the musical phrases. Pierre Monteux knew Brahms (played for him in his string quartet) and he was his favourite composer. He never played his symphonies in that way.
Unfortunately this senza vibrato, lean strings approach is the norm rather than the exception today, even with modern ensembles. The other day there was a Schumann 2nd Symphony on the radio with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. You get very little vibrato, phrases are rather choppy and you get that annoying swell that takes place of vibrato. For whatever reason this is how music from the mid to late 19th century is played nowadays. I think it is more common with younger conductors, for example you would never see Haitink conduct Schumann that way. I don't understand it either but to each its own I suppose.

Back to the original thread lately I have been warming towards Solti's CSO cycle. I think Sir Georg nails this cycle, expressive yet never driven with a directness totally appropriate in this music.