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Brahms: Alto Rhapsody / Symphony No. 2, Opp. 53,73 Import

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, January 11, 1990
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Brahms,J. ~ Sym 2/Alt Rhaps

Amazon.com

Another very fine performance in Claudio Abbado's Brahms cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic. The Second Symphony is the most sunny and lyrical of the four, and Abbado seems to have found a way to make the melodies sing while keeping the music moving along nicely. The coupling, a marvelous Alto Rhapsody, features Marjana Lipovsek, a terrific singer who doesn't seem to get her due on recordings. Altogether recommendable. --David Hurwitz
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9:56
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Product Details

  • Performer: Ernst Senff Choir
  • Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Claudio Abbado
  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Audio CD (January 11, 1990)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Dg Imports
  • ASIN: B000001GB5
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,077 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Toren on January 30, 2001
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Abbado proves again in this recording that he is the world's foremost interpreter of Brahms. He and his great orchestra create an incredible lush sound that is perfect for Brahms. The first movement is achingly beautiful and the finale is thrilling, despite the fact that the speeds are somewhat relaxed. My only reservation when it comes to this cd and the others in the set is that there is a little too much echo in the recording. While on the one hand this adds to the richness of the sound, on the other hand it sacrifices a degree of clarity at some points. The beautifully-sung Alto Rhapsody is a great bonus, and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn (that isn't really by Haydn) is also richly played. On the whole, a great cd.
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This disc, well recorded in 1988 in the BPO's Philharmonie, reflects the depth of experience that this orchestra has in this music. Abbado has a totally natural affinity with these players and there is throughout constantly evolving aural evidence of the sheer empathy both share with each other as a partnership as well as with the Brahms sound world.

In this performance of the symphony the composition evolves at a natural pace with the textures based on firm foundations of string tone. The woodwind glow and the brass have both lustrous warmth and a cutting edge as required. The final bars of the finale bite as they should but so often don't. Beecham doubled the number of trumpets just for the final fanfares but that is simply not required here. Beecham's famous 'live' performance is a good instance of a very exciting last movement and thrilling conclusion but that is not balanced by the preparation of the previous movements. This Abbado reading is less overtly exciting in those ways but is much more of a whole experience. That is precisely why it makes such a compelling reading for repeat playing as happens with a disc.

The Alto Rhapsody shares much of the same musical development and ultimate success. Marjana Lipovsek has a brighter, less rounded tone than some favoured soloists but, judged in the context of this reading, her voice seems to be appropriate.

This is one of the most successful readings of these two works for quite a long time. it also has the benefit of excellent playing and recording both of which do Brahms proud. There can be no definitive 'best' recording of such core repertoire bearing in mind the range and depth of distinguished recorded alternatives but it would be fair to describe Abbado's set with the BPO as being one of the best and certainly an outstanding set for its recorded generation.

I would therefore suggest that it deserves very serious consideration either as a complete set or, as here, single discs.
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Format: Audio CD
I just don't buy the idea, promulgated in CD liner notes, that Brahms's Second Symphony breathes a relaxed, pastoral spirit after the rigors of composing the First in the shadow of Beethoven. That just doesn't feel right to me, especially in relation to the first two movements. The third movement has wit, and the fourth is the most energetic and exultant that Brahms wrote, but even about them "relaxed" and "pastoral" don't seem right. Trouble is, I can't pin down a positive characterization of what's expressed, and that no doubt is a result of serious ignorance on my part about how music is put together. I hear in the first movement a recurrent almost lullaby-like theme, often in the lower strings, that contributes to the piece's coherence as one experiences it, but that recurrent theme is subjected to a lot of interruption, some quite violent and none of it memorably melodic but usually strongly rhythmical. The effect isn't "tragic" but it is a bit "craggy" (to use a word often applied to Klemperer's Brahms performances, and quite aptly -- Klemperer's account of the Second is marvelous, even with the 1956 sound and the cut in the first movement.) Unlike Santa Fe Listener, I find Abbado suitably craggy -- indeed my initial response to his reading was that it wasn't polished enough, but the more I listened, the more I came to see that this is a hard work to polish -- the orchestration isn't showy, and there's lot of it. Listening to Guilini (1960), Klemperer (1956), and Jochum (1976) confirmed that impression: they ALL sound pretty craggy. The second movement, to my ears, isn't all that consoling or beautiful -- like the first, it's texturally dense and complicated.Read more ›
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In the modern era, with such good orchestral musicians everywhere, it's hard to find a bad Brahms Second. This one takes off in the last momvement after more or less coasting through the first three. The opening minutes foretell the rest, with Abbado's soft-grained rhythms, smooth sonority, and lack of strong emphasis. Even when he's doing a very good job at balances and the Berliners are playing gorgeously, Abbado tends to be foursquare in his approach to Brahms, and that can be pretty detached, as witness most of this CD. The best that can be said is that it's melifluous (to a fault) and represents a band of world-class musicians.

Lipovsek had a short-lived fling at recording, although given her sharp tone, Slavic shrillness on top, and absence of interesting ideas, I don't quite see why she achieved any prominence. Here in the Alto Rhapsody she is cautious and underpowered, which isn't competitive in a work that has seen glorious performances from Ferrier, Ludwig, and Baker.

P.S. 2012 - At amazon you take your lumps, for the most part, because you don't award enough stars to please the crowd, but on relistening to this Brahms Second, I feel that I lived up to my obligation to describe a performance with some objectivity.
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