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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Brahms 'Third' with Subtle Direction, Great Playing and Clear, Warm Sound
Brahms's Third Symphony has been the subject of much discussion as to whether the ubiquitous melodic and harmonic occurrences of the sequence - F A (or A flat) F - are Brahms's answer to his friend, Joseph Joachim's mottor F A E. Joachim's F A E stood for 'frei aber einsam' ('free but lonely') while Brahms's F A F presumably stood for 'frei aber froh' ('free but happy')...
Published on January 31, 2007 by J Scott Morrison

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Haydn Variations" Better Served
I'm not quite sure what to make of this release. The Brahms 3rd is one of my favorite symphonies, but there are very few recordings of it that I really enjoy. Early on, I may have been imprinted with the first recording I ever heard of the work, the old Karajan from DG, which was recorded in the early `60s. In the opening movement, Karajan gave the music a dramatic sweep...
Published on July 7, 2009 by Karl W. Nehring


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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Brahms 'Third' with Subtle Direction, Great Playing and Clear, Warm Sound, January 31, 2007
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
Brahms's Third Symphony has been the subject of much discussion as to whether the ubiquitous melodic and harmonic occurrences of the sequence - F A (or A flat) F - are Brahms's answer to his friend, Joseph Joachim's mottor F A E. Joachim's F A E stood for 'frei aber einsam' ('free but lonely') while Brahms's F A F presumably stood for 'frei aber froh' ('free but happy'). More likely the this symphony's alternation of F A F with F Ab F is Brahms's way of giving us harmonic complexity altering, as it does, F major with F minor. And not only does he alter major and minor he also alters how 6/8 is divided up: is it three groups of two beats, or two groups of three beats per measure? These two technical matters make up much of the symphony's fascination for musicologists. But, more important, listeners without a smidgen of musicological knowledge are also smitten by this great symphony, with possibly Brahms's most subtle discourse.

The Third had a great success at its premiere in 1883, enough so that Brahms was taken aback, worrying that he would never again be able to equal it. He rushed right into the composition of his Fourth Symphony and on its premiere his worries were allayed.

There have, of course, been many fine recordings of the Third Symphony. And many of them are available at budget prices. So Naxos doesn't necessarily have the price advantage it so often does. However, this performance is one of the better ones around, abetted by wonderfully clear sound and an intelligent, graceful and heartfelt performance led by Marin Alsop. The London Philharmonia plays beautifully here; special mention must be made of the glorious playing of the winds, the horns in particular. One seemingly can hear everything, not always the case with Brahms's sometimes bass-thick orchestrations. One can even hear the contrabassoon in its important contribution to the final movement; it is so often barely audible if at all in other recordings.

Alsop apparently has a special affinity for this symphony. Certainly her management of dynamics and tempo adjustments is superior to that in her recording of the First. In the pastoral Second which, by the way, is a superior recording, she doesn't have much opportunity to manage the alternation of dramatic and lyrical passages, but here in the Third she makes much of these contrasts. Although it is often passed over by music lovers in favor of the more consistently dramatic First and Fourth, the Third is my favorite Brahms symphony largely because of its subtle mixture of lyrical and dramatic impulses as well as its spectacularly thought-out construction which continually rewards deep study. Alsop does not let me down here. As I write this it has become one of my favorite recordings along with those of Bruno Walter, Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado.

The filler is the ubiquitous Haydn Variations, given an unexceptionable and sonically warm reading.

Scott Morrison
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SIGH, November 27, 2007
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
I first heard this recording on my car radio and immediately pricked up my ears. I did not know who was conducting, but the unusual tempo just grabbed me. I said to my husband "Wow--WHO is doing this? It's superb!" And it stayed superb all the way through the symphony, in every way. And I am a professional orchestra musician (Viola, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland) so it takes something to grab me that way.

When the symphony was over, the radio announcer SIGHED into the microphone and said "That was Marin Alsop conducting the London Philharmonic."

Can you get a better review than that?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Brahms So Far From Alsop, April 2, 2007
By 
JohnL "jomin44" (Alexander, NC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
Quite interestingly, the general consensus back in the 1930s and 40s was that this Symphony, the Third (of Four) by Johannes Brahms was not only his best, but also the best Symphony of any composer since Beethoven. Of course, some might agree... and others would strongly argue for Dvorak's Eighth or Ninth, or perhaps one or more of Tchaikovsky's final three grand Symphonies. Of course, all four of Brahm's are well-liked, for different reasons. One thing is sure, this latest release by Marin Alsop and the LPO is the best of the first three released thus far. I certainly will not go into great detail about each movement. Suffice to say that the sound quality is superb, the orchestral playing, especially by the woodwinds, is very good indeed, and the tempos are well-chosen. The Haydn Variations make for an attractive coupling, and comes across excellently. Once again, the woodwind playing is very nice. Gramophone magazine, perhaps the most respected of all classical reviewers, gave this a very good review, as well as Classics Today, which gave this recording a 10/10, their highest score. I venture to say, both of these cannot be wrong, and neither am I. This CD is highly recommended, and at a very attractive price.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Brahms from Marin Alsop, February 14, 2008
By 
Mark Hennicke (A stone's throw from Carnegie Hall) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
This recording of the Brahms Third Symphony by Marin Alsop has been my introduction to the much acclaimed cycle she has recorded for Naxos. I could not be more pleased with the outcome after listening to this cd. The sound quality is splendid and Alsop's conducting is thuroughly engaging. Her take on the Variations on a Theme by Haydn is first rate, as well, making this disc an all the more attractive purchase. For those listeners who sometimes find the music of Brahms a bit daunting, this recording by Marin Alsop & the London Philharmoic Orchestra is wonderful oppurtunity to develop a greater appreciation for this great master's work. The other releases in this series will quickly be added to my music library. I would be quite surprised if I didn't enjoy them every bit as much as I have this wonderful Brahms Third by Maestro Alsop & the LPO!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dedicated but a bit off, November 19, 2007
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
Regarding Marin Alsop's version of Brahm's Third and the Haydn Variations, first the good news. The recorded sound is beautiful and detailed, the orchestral playing is superb, and the interpretation is thoughtful and personal. I found the brisk and detailed performance of the Haydn Variations to be quite enjoyable, displaying Brahms the Classicist in good form. Now, the bad news. The interpretation of the third symphony, while personal and even individualistic, has its exciting moments, but seems somewhat understated at times, and leaves me a bit underwhelmed. While Reiner (my favorite performance), Szell, and even Haitink revel in Brahms' syncopations, Alsop does not, in my opinion, and the performance becomes more soft-edged as a result - a defensible choice, perhaps, but not mine (or theirs). The tempo marking of the first mvmt. is "allegro con brio" not "allegro moderato". Alsop begins with two almost mournful chords and proceeds allegro moderato, although she does whip up some excitement later in the movement. Reiner is definite "con brio", while Haitink is more "maestoso", but solid and granitic in a Klemperer sort of way that works well in spite of the slightly slower tempo. Alsop's second and third mvmts are a bit lightweight (classical?)and quick, and come across similarly as "Intermezzo I&II". This approach does not do justice to the gorgeous melody of mvmt 3. The last mvmt is quite well done, however. This recording will never be my favorite. The other three take precedence. Overall, I give four stars at most.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, December 20, 2007
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
Marin Alsop, budget label notwithstanding, is a major conductor. This is one of the best Brahms albums I've ever heard. Tempos are on the slow side in the Symphony, with a great deal of attention to light and shadow. My favorite CD of the piece is Neeme Jarvi's with the London Symphony, but this is a highly competitive and complementary viewpoint. The wind playing in particular is lovely. Overall, it's a somewhat gentle take on the Symphony, but with steel behind it in the attention to structure and sonority. The Haydn Variations is an unequivocal triumph, possibly the best version I've heard since Bruno Walter's and George Szell's.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Brahms Third Symphony And Superb Haydn Variations from Alsop and London Philharmonic Orchestra, July 29, 2008
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
Young American conductor Marin Alsop - the new music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - demonstrates why she is also among our finest interpreters of Brahms in this fine 2005 Naxos recording. Alsop's lively, quite mesmerizing, account is clearly one of the more intriguing interpretations of this piece that I am acquainted with. An interpretation that doesn't quite seem as mannered as her mentor Leonard Bernstein's, in for example, his sumptuous live recording with the Wiener Philharmoniker on Deutsche Grammophon from the early 1980s. Alsop has demonstrated so far within this cycle a great affinity for Brahms scores, obtaining ample virtuoso performances from the London Philharmonic's string, wind and brass sections. However, I have one serious reservation, with respect to sound quality, which is why I wouldn't recommend this recording as a viable first choice alternative to Bernard Haitink's recent London Symphony Orchestra recordings on LSO Live; the sound quality sounds surprisingly cold and distant. Happily, for her riveting interpretation of the Haydn Variations, Naxos sound engineers have done a superior job for Ms. Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra; here the sound seems not only louder, but brighter and warmer. As far as this interpretation of Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn, it is definitely among the best I have heard, ranking alongside any I have heard from the likes of Haitink, Bohm, Karajan and Abbado, among others.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire and Ice, February 18, 2008
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This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
While listening to XM Satellite Radio this evening, I was reading "The Long Journey: Fire and Ice," by Johannes Jensen, a Danish author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1944 (what an odd/awful year to pick up a Nobel!). "Fire and Ice" is the first volume of the two-volume "Long Journey" and deals with the evolution of "people of the (Scandinavian) north" from being mere animals to the achievement of a vague self-awareness over many years.

Along comes the Brahms Third on the radio, with Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic. By the end of the first movement, I had put down the book and was listening to an riveting performance of the old warhorse. What particularly struck me is how, under Alsop's direction of a fabulously responsive orchestra, the Third revealed rumbling undertones of the primitive lives Jensen had been describing for me in meticulous detail. There was a bottom layer in Alsop's interpretation of what Carl Jung might have called the collective unconscious at work, something I had been quite unprepared for in Brahms.

How this native of Manhattan could plumb the depths of Brahms (and European myth) is a mystery, but plumb it she did. I hate to make comparisons, but Alsop's Brahms Third revealed layers of Scandinavian (or perhaps Teutonic?) myth that the great Richard Wagner labored to produce in his Tristan and Dutchman, among others. The difference? The Brahms came forth naturally to reveal its secrets, while Wagner now seems to me to have been trying too hard, so to speak--perhaps more Apollonian than Dionysian.

A stunning revelation for this listener.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Haydn Variations" Better Served, July 7, 2009
By 
Karl W. Nehring (Ostrander, OH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
I'm not quite sure what to make of this release. The Brahms 3rd is one of my favorite symphonies, but there are very few recordings of it that I really enjoy. Early on, I may have been imprinted with the first recording I ever heard of the work, the old Karajan from DG, which was recorded in the early `60s. In the opening movement, Karajan gave the music a dramatic sweep that maybe Brahms did not even intend to put into the score; in any event, Alsop certainly does not find it.

The first couple of times I listened to this Naxos recording, I really did not like it at all. It just sounded plodding. Very ordinary. Perfunctory. (But professional, I had to admit.)

After a few more listens, my resistance wore down a bit, but perhaps more from my enjoyment of the Haydn Variations, which Alsop does marvelously, than from the Symphony. The slower passages are quite lovely, but I still found myself missing the sweep that Karajan brought to the opening.

I seem to recall being quite taken with a Klemperer recording of the 3rd that I heard some years ago on LP, but I have not heard that again in ages. It may be available now on CD at a budget price as part of a complete set; if so, it would certainly be worth an audition. Another budget version of some merit is the Utah/Abravanel set on Vanguard; the orchestral sound is a mite thin in some respects, but the performances are both spirited and well-crafted. So many Brahms recordings, so little time!
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars *** 1/2 A good installment in Alsop's Brahms, but not outstanding, January 30, 2007
This review is from: Brahms: Symphony 3 (Audio CD)
Previously Marin Alsop has given us straightfroward, at times routine readings of three Brahms symphonies. Undoubtedly Alsop is a sound musician, and this is a musical Brahms Third. Tempos are in the normal range, accents a bit rounded off (she's closer to Bruno Walter's geniality than Szell's assertiveness or Karajan's grandeur). In fact, this could be the mellowest Third since Walter's on Sony with the Columbia Sym. The moody, surging third movement becomes too subdued, I think, to offer enough contrast with the first two movements. I prefer to hear the finale with more mystery and excitement, but Alsop's quick-moving, smoothly phrased reading is nice and listenable.

The unlucky fact is that she's up against the greatest conductors of the century. That's a cruel field to leap into. What Alsop has going for her is the budget Naxos pricing, the excellent London Phil., and vivid sonics. On that score this is a competitive CD. The Haydn Var., so often picked as a filler for the Sym. #3, proceeds as musically but moree uneventfully than the main work.

P.S. April 2012 - In one of the monthly Collections round-ups, The Gramophone picked this Brahms Third as probably the best in the new century, which admittedly has few choices. to me, ranking Alsop over Simon Rattle and the Berliners is quite a stretch.
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Brahms: Symphony 3
Brahms: Symphony 3 by J. Brahms (Audio CD - 2007)
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