Composer: Johannes Brahms
Orchestra: Simon Rattle
Conductor: Berliner Philharmoniker
Number of Discs: 3 CD box set
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: EMI Classics
Size: 771 MB
Sinfonie Nr. 1 c-Moll Op. 68
01. I. Un Poco Sostenuto – Allegro
02. II. Andante Sostenuto
03. III. Un Poco Allegretto E Grazioso
04. IV. Adagio – Piu Andante – Allegro Non Troppo Ma Con Brio – Piu Allegro
Symphony No. 2 in D Major Op. 73
01. I. Allegro non troppo
02. II. Adagio non troppo
03. III. Allegretto grazioso, Quasi andantino
04. IV. Allegro con spirito
Symphony No. 3 in F Major Op. 90
05. I. Allegro con brio
06. II. Andante
07. III. Poco allegretto
08. IV. Allegro
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor Op. 98
01. I. Allegro non troppo
02. II. Andante moderato
03. III. Allegro giocoso
04. IV.Allegro energico e passionato
I can think of some reasons you may want to avoid this album…
This 3 CD set, featuring the complete symphonies of Brahms with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, has received lots of unreserved praise from musicians everywhere. But I would have you to know that there are some things about this album that you may want to avoid.
What are those things? Well, if you are someone who doesn’t want your emotions to come to the surface, this is a set that will force them to the top. What’s perhaps worse, it will have you thinking so deeply about your past and the meaning of your life that you will have to stop all that you’re doing to take it all in. Furthermore, the effect it will have on you will take days to wear off, if it does at all. If you don’t like thinking deeply, this CD will make you do so. It’s for these reasons that I can’t recommend these discs to everyone.
If the things laid out in the previous paragraph seem uninviting, I would beg you to reconsider. I don’t think there are many things more satisfying for the listener than music that leads us to into serious reflection–reflection that is never ponderous but rather seeks to uplift the soul of the listener through its searching. In this day and age, music that has the potential to be life changing should be greeted with cries of adulation, at least that’s how I feel.
Now that I’ve hopefully whetted your appetite for what this disc is all about, I want to look just a bit deeper into the interpretation. I think that Brahms is a composer whose charm lies not in excitement and pomp. If these are the reasons for which one turns to Brahms, they will meet with disappointment. You might as well listen to Tchaikovsky or Mahler. When the interpreter’s primary concern is foot-tapping excitement in Brahms, the music becomes a blurred mess of exaggerated sentimentality. But what I think is unique in Brahms’ symphonies is the amount of soul-searching thoughtfulness that is present. Throughout the bars of the ingenious works, there lies a large dosage of retrospection that is probably rivaled nowhere else in the entire field of music.
Rattle catches on to this. With what has got to be the world’s greatest orchestra, he opens the ears of us listeners to a world of tremendous beauty and depth. It’s really tough to pin down exactly how he does it, as his interpretive gifts allow him to give us a wide palate of sound. The music ranges from moments of a tenderness that almost floats to moments of gripping tragedy. Each of the 4 symphonies has its own world and Rattle’s vision takes this into account. Never fear, you’ll hear plenty of fate in the 1st and 4th symphonies while still hearing the blissful contentment that thrives in the 2nd and the autumnal feel for color in the 3rd. But Brahms is always Brahms, which means that the rich harmonic structure on which the symphonies are based will never leave. So no matter the mood or color, Rattle will still shine in a world of dark gorgeousness which his Berliners know more about than anyone else. It’s really hard for me to say which symphony receives the best interpretation as they’re all so fresh and imaginative. From the refreshing beams of sunlight and pure joy in the opening of the 2nd to the throbbing drama at the end of the 4th, everything is captured so wonderfully.
In case you’re wondering, I want to clarify something. While Rattle doesn’t see Brahms as being about excitement and pomp, this does not mean everything is laid back and cozy. In the process of unveiling the true world of Brahms, Rattle will give us exhilarating climaxes where the sheer bigness of sound gives me chills. I have to think in particular of how he closes the 1st symphony. The excitement is so contagious I have to fight to resist shouting from the thrill. The point is that all the excitement is seen in perspective. When we hear the closing of the 1st symphony, for example, it’s only after we’ve been on a journey of where grief is unleashed in ways that may force you to pull your handkerchief out. In fact, the pure triumph of the close of the symphony is ten times as inspiring after we’ve been on such a journey.
In closing, there is no other music in my entire collection that I love as much as this set. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to explain why you should buy it and give yourself the same experience.