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Brahms: The Four Symphonies (NBC Symphony Orchestra Vol. IV) Original recording remastered

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, August 10, 1999
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 10, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: RCA Legacy
  • ASIN: B00000JPCE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,735 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Those of us who purchased these recordings in the earlier BMG series in the early 1990's must have thought as I did that this was all we could hope for in digital transfers. It was crisp and clear but still somewhat hard and oldish in sound. Now with these wonderful new remasterings BMG has really brought the Maestro into our time for a new generation to discover. So much has has been said about these magnificent performances that I can only repeat that the 2nd and 4th are truly great interpretations. This new set is a cause for celebration. No Brahms lover can afford to overlook this generous reissue.
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Format: Audio CD
I was skeptical when these new CDs were issued. My thoughts were that the early 1990s Complete Toscanini reissue was probably the best that could be humanly done to restore the very pinched and nasal sounding originals. Since I had already bought half of that set, I wasn't about to spend more of my hard-earned money on a marginally improved RE-reissue.
I was wrong. In 1997, RCA totally reorganized and inventoried its massive vaults, which had been in disarray for decades. As a result, many original sources which had been declared "lost" were now "found." This new remastering is strikingly improved sonically over all earlier issues. Utilizing the best technology now available, RCA has also done the right thing by hiring a musician--conductor Ed Houser--rather than whiz-bang technicians to supervise the remastering. The NBC Symphony Orchestra now sounds better than ever before, with greater clarity, smoother strings, fuller winds, and less blotting out during fortissimos.
Perhaps no conductor of the 20th Century has been as misunderstood as Arturo Toscanini, as evidenced by the critical backlash with which he was assailed in the years after his death. That criticism was partly in reaction to the equally unbalanced adulation heaped upon him during his lifetime. I remember once mentioning to an acquaintance my admiration for Toscanini's Beethoven and Brahms, and he shot back, "He conducts everything too fast!" In fact, in comparison with other recordings and broadcasts of his era, Toscanini's conducting was not generally faster than average. In relation to TODAY'S phlegmatic tempos, however, Toscanini's pacing is definitely brisk.
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Format: Audio CD
Toscanini is probably known best for his great interpretations of Beethoven, Verdi and Wagner and is often overlooked when it comes to Brahms. For those who have not heard Toscanini's Brahms, this is the set to purchase.
This new set of Toscanini reissues by RCA are by far the best to date. The sound is crisper and clearer then the previous set and this Brahms coupling is no exception. Toscanini's use of the dry acoustics of NBC's Studio 8H shows Toscanini's preference to complete control of every voice in the orchestra. In the Brahms, for example, the inner-voices are very-well heard and the sound overall is very crisp and clean. Among the common misconceptions of the Maestro is his preference for brisk tempi. Though it is true that he preferred a quicker tempo in many works, the brisk quality is attributed to the Maestro's sense of rhythm and drive. One can feel Toscanini's reins on the orchestra.
Probably the most startling tempo Toscanini took is in the First Symphony introduction, where he takes a much faster tempo then in many other German recordings. To my taste, it gives it a greater sense of drive and suspense to the opening. The rest of the movement is crisp and superb, the melody and/or moving lines always clear and the timpani almost always never overpowering the orchestra (generally, a very tasteful timpanist).
The Second Symphony is also wonderful and one may find it surprising that Toscanini took the finale SLOWER then many other conductors would. The orchestra sings quite beautifully in Brahms' most melodious symphony, particularly the First movement's second theme (many have referred this melody a variation on Brahms' famous lullaby).
The third is powerful, though at times the strings tend to be out of sync at times with eachother.
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Format: Audio CD
Being perfectly frank, I have a real problem with the four symphonies of Johannes Brahms. I cannot choose between them. Whichever one I am hearing is my favorite at that moment. At one point it is the brass chorale, or a particularly beautiful cello passage, or the fabulously limpid clarinet, or exuberance, or pathos, or the horns! These are four masterworks that are supreme treasures of the musical art.

Brahms began working on his first symphony more than a decade before it was premiered. He wanted to be sure he was producing something absolutely right. He got it more than right. The first symphony in C Minor (Op 68) is from 1876 (Brahms was born in 1833), the second in D Major (Op 73) followed quickly in 1877. The third in F Major (Op 90) is from 1883 and the last in E Minor (Op 98) was premiered in 1885. Brahms died in 1897.

Arturo Toscanini lived his life in music and grew from being an opera house cellist to one of the greatest conductors of his era and one of the immortals of the podium. Many people comment on his driving and fast tempi. He may have been a bit brisker than others at times, but one of the reasons his performances seemed so fast is that he made sure you heard everything possible in the score. When so much is happening for your ear and you try to take it all in, well, it seems awfully fast. This is one of the things Arthur Rubenstein had in mind when he admonished young pianists that if they wanted to play fast they had to slow down. Toscanini kept the orchestral tempi up, but made each moment full to capacity of music.

The NBC Symphony Orchestra was created for Toscanini by David Sarnoff in 1937 and was led by the master for seventeen years. The orchestra not only recorded with him, but made public concerts and even toured.
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