Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Brahms, Ny Sym Orch, Damrosch|
Symphony in D Op 73 / Symphony 4 in E Minor Op 98
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Stunning Vintage Brahms
Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 11/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hermann Abendroth (1886-1956) belonged to the same generation as Wilhelm Furtwängler and, while little known outside of Germany, enjoyed in his lifetime the reputation of a top-rank orchestra-leader. He specialized (to use that unfortunate neologism) in much the same repertory as Furtwängler: The German classics above all - Bach, Beethoven Brahms, Bruckner, and Wagner. Unlike Furtwängler, however, he did not shy from the recording studio; he made a good number of records throughout his career, including two early electrical recordings of the Brahms Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 with the London Symphony Orchestra (1928 and 1927 respectively). Biddulph has issued these recordings in transfers undertaken by Mark Obert-Thorn. I have commented separately on the First Symphony, which the CD couples with the Third, as conducted by Clemens Krauss. Here, Biddulph couples the Fourth with the Second, as conducted by Walter Damrosch and played by the New York Symphony Orchestra. To the important matter of Abendroth's Brahms 4: Many archaisms mark Abendroth's approach to the Brahms Symphonies - practices that used to be regularly applied but which the musical puritanism of recent decades has, in effect, forbidden. Among these is the liberal application of rubato, the subtle slowing-down and speeding-up that pushes a phrase this way or that and lends a certain improvisatory flavor to the proceedings. Furtwängler did this too but Abendroth does it more than Furtwängler. It's noticeable right away in the first bars of the First Movement (Allegro Non Troppo), where Abendroth lengthens slightly the second note of the repeated two-note phrase on which Brahms builds the entirety of the movement. Abendroth also plays with dynamics, making the music louder or quieter, much more freely than any modern interpreter would. The object, I suppose, is that these habits are subjective. The trouble is that Brahms was not some kind of Stravinsky-like "objectivist." He employed classical forms, true enough, but he filled them with a powerfully Romantic spirit; Abendroth's Romantic conductorial manner thus finds its justification the character of Brahms' music. Abendroth makes the Second Movement (Andante Moderato) extraordinarily noble, but he also brings out an antique flavor, as in the stalking passages underlined by the plucked celli in the beginning. In so doing, he points up the fact that, in its rhythms and modality and polyphonic textures, the E-Minor Symphony is indeed a hybrid of the late-Romantic and the baroque. Abendroth drives the Third Movement (Allegro Giocoso) rapidly, giving its otherwise hopeful gestures a somewhat desperate coloration. When the Fourth Movement (Allegro Energico e Passionato) arrives, the mood becomes dark and fierce. Abendroth not only pushes this variation one way and that one another, he pushes and pulls within each variation as well. In the first variation, we suddenly understand Abendroth's manipulation of the rhythm in the First Movement, for he suddenly duplicates it here, thus tying the First to the Fourth in a remarkable demonstration of their organic unity. The enormity of the coda defies description. This is a great Brahms 4, one to stand alongside Furtängler's 1943 account with the Berlin Philharmonic for its demonism. Walter Damrosch's Brahms 2 is of interest for its gentleness. A word on sound: Obert-Thorn appears to have worked from commercial sets rather than the original matrices. In order to salvage the maximum of color from the old grooves, a minimum of noise suppression has been applied, so that the shellac surfaces do maintain a presence throughout. I find that the distraction quickly vanishes as the powerful performance commands attention."