A Short But Beautiful CD
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 05/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had the LP copy of this performance and am pleased to finally have it on CD. The First Serenade of Brahms was written in 1857-8 and was at first scored for strings and winds until the manuscript was seen by Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim who saw the symphonic possibilities and urged that it be rescored for orchestra. The music is symphonic in nature but Brahms completed the work in the chamber music version and it was first heard in that form. The orchestral version came later and was termed a "Sinfonie-Serenade" and was first performed in 1860.
There Serenade is in six movements - essentially a symphony with two Scherzo movements - and has its basis in music of the Classical period. The expansive first movement is immediately pastoral and the opening melody is reminiscent of Haydn. The first Scherzo is modeled after Beethoven and the Adagio is reflective and scored for strings and winds alone. The short Menuetto is a Romance in all but name and has none of the familiar dance-like melodies of Mozart and Haydn. The second Scherzo rousing with the horns taking center stage and leads into the Rondo finale with its rustic dance melody.
Claudio Abaddo and the Berlin Philharmonic play with great affection for this music and they place emphasis on the pastoral elements in the music. The orchestral balance is good and the only draw back is the shortness (49:11) of the disc. There were no fillips on the original LP so DG made the decision to provide no additional music which would have been welcome. Still, if you are interested in a fine performance of the first Serenade look no further.
Brahms's sunniest work, done in relaxed fashion
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For whatever reason, Karajan avoided recording either of Brahms's wonderful Serenades, and DG made up the slack with Abbado. Here he conducts the Berlin Phil. from 1983 in a very accomplished reading, marred somewhat by edgy early-digital sonics. There's an unpleasant sting to the violins at higher volume.
Abbado has never considered Brahms a composer of conflict or inner struggle, thus missing a great deal of what makes him great, but the Serenade #1 is a thoroughly uncomplicated, optimistic work, so Abbado's approach works. My attention wandered a bit--everything was sweet and genial to a fault--and DG stingily put only this 49 min. piece on the CD. Most buyers, however, will probably encoutner this performance in Abbado's box set of the four symphonies."