Triumph over the past
katja_r | 10/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoy these symphonies very much. Daniel Barenboim presents a patient and stately reading. The notes by Phillip Huscher present a biographical account. Intimidated by the shadow of Beethoven, Brahms spent twenty years writing his first symphony. He remarked as a way of explaining his reticence, "You can't have any idea what it's like always to hear such a giant marching behind you." Imagine how composers after Brahms felt hearing not only the giant but the giant-killer marching behind them. ;D I appreciate the pacing Barenboim establishes. For example, the opening seventeen measures of the first symphony provides a thoughtful presentation, acknowledging Brahm's awareness of Beethoven's influence. Again, in the fourth movement at the 5'23" mark, the pace is assured and thoughtful before climaxing at 6'30". I also notice a wide dynamic range which makes the symphony interesting and lively to me. The second symphony, although completed only months after the first, is quite different. Phillip Huscher comments that the "first performance, on December 30, 1877, in Vienna under Hans Richter, was a triumph, and the third movement had to be repeated." I feel an unmistakable tension, so to speak, when I hear the first movement's lovely strings paint a pastoral image while there is an underlying sense of uneasiness from the lower strings and the trombones. I think that Brahms has written a complex piece which might have become maudlin in less qualified hands. I don't feel very comfortable being the first person to comment on these great works of Western Music. My embarassing lack of training I feel must be obvious, and I do hope that someone more qualified will offer their own more instructive notes. Anyway, if you are interested in the symphonies of one of the most important composers of the late 19th century, or you are interested in Barenboim's stately reading of these symphonies, this CD will interest you."
Brahms, Barenboim and the CSO: A Splendid Combination
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 04/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These are warm, vibrant performances of Brahms' most popular symphonies. Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have recorded one of the finest Brahms symphony cycles in recent years. Only those conducted by Kurt Masur and Bernard Haitink are either warmer or more passionate than these recordings. I believe Teldec's sound quality is better here than in its critically acclaimed Masur/New York Philharmonic Brahms symphony cycle. Barenboim isn't noted for his conducting of Brahms; however this cycle has received some praise from music critics. If you are looking for a fine set of recent recordings of Brahms' first two symphonies at a budget price, then you won't go wrong with this attractive coupling."