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CD Review

Johannes Brahms

  • Symphony #1 in C minor, Op. 68
  • Variations on a Theme of Haydn, Op. 56a
Symphony Orchestra of the Southwest German Radio, Baden Baden/Jascha Horenstein
Vox Legends 7801 67m ADD
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Horenstein's uncanny, idiosyncratic way of conducting has left him admirers and enemies in almost equal fashion.

One can never forget the outstanding sets of recordings made for Vox in the early 50's including the Bruckner 8th and Ninth symphonies, Mahler's 1st and 9th and the magnificent live recording of the 1958 Mahler 8th, all treasures of the repertoire.

Horenstein's Brahms is a bit on the sedate side but this also exposes us keen listeners to the beautiful woodwind figurations and orchestral thrust that permeates the First Symphony. Indeed, the grand craggy nature of the First Movement is almost like a scene from a Kaulbach painting.

The inner movements are also very beautifully paced with great introspection to be found in the lovely Andante sostenuto. The Ukranian born master then lets all rip in that wonderful Finale that glows with emotion and splendour. This is definitely one of the most desirable Brahms First's in the current catalogue and I am including Furtwängler (Tahra), Kertész (Decca), Kempe and Toscanini (Testament) and many others in my canon.

A relaxed yet firmly tautened reading of the 'Haydn Variations' is the filler to the symphony. Here the music is slightly on a less tense level but one can also admire the picturesque vitality brought to the music by this great conductor.

As always in these exemplary Vox issues, notes are of the highest standard with detailed essays on the works and interpreters. At mid price, historic enthusiasts should really not hesitate.

Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech