10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2001
This entire set of Mackerras conduction the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is the best recording of these fantastic symphonies I have ever heard. The liner talks about their approaches to making the sound more accurate to what Brahms originally wrote for: a smaller string section, more dynamic tempo and wider bore and more prominent winds. I'm sure there are debates as to rather this is how Brahms really intended his symphonies to sound, but I'm not up for them. My bottom line is that these CD's are easily the most stirring and evocative rendition of these symphonies I have ever heard, and one of my favorite CD's period.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2001
This is a fabulous CD. As noted elsewhere, Mackerras continues his "authentic performance" trend with this CD, reducing the size of the orchestra and employing instruments that are technically more in line with those of the Late Romantic era in music. The result is a lean, powerful interpretation of both of these works. The brass, in particular, seem to burst out of the speakers with sharp, dynamic lines of music--I've never heard them this accentuated in Brahms' Second, and I like the result. Also of note are the winds--they have some difficult scale runs, etc., throughout these two works (particularly in the symphony), and they respond with absolute precision and clarity. Both these works are bursting with energy and precision, as well as the careful musical balance that is Mackerras' trademark. I was extremely impressed with the constant exchange of the music between instrumental sections, something that usually gets muted out in other, less-balanced recordings where one section of instruments is allowed to dominate. Overall, the Haydn Variations sound warm and lush (and the "surprise" ending is played with a jubilant fervor, showing the orchestra's full appreciation of the musical joke being played), and the Second Symphony is taut and muscular while still retaining the Romantic Viennese passion of Brahms. The CD cover for this CD claimed that it "brought new life to these celebrated works," and I can't think of any better way to describe it than that; this CD brings these works down from the pedestal of "stuffy pedantry" and transforms them into passionate, "everyman" music that we can all identify with. Although these interpretations don't quite have the all-out energy and drama of the Von Karajan recordings (still my personal favorites), this CD is still bursting with life, vivacity, and (above all) an orchestra and a conductor that know what the heck they're doing. Definitely worth your money and your time.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2005
This is really a good version of this piece. The playing is spot on and the recorded sound is very good. The coupling with the Haydn variations is typical (most come with this or the Academic Festival Overture). Highly recommended.