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A pleasant, bland Brahms Third in period style, with very good choral fillers
on January 31, 2010
Punchy, Zingy, Jerky, and Rushed. The four horsemen of the HIP apocalypse are in full cry here, turning the Brahms Third into a drive-by. Gardiner continues his period-style Brahms cycle in the expected manner. It's odd, as one professional reviewer points out, for someone who claims (in the program notes) to be coming as close as possible to how the composer would have heard this symphony, that Gardiner makes tempo adjustments not called for in the score. Could it be that this arch literalist has discovered interpretation? Only marginally -- for the most part Gardiner sets a tempo and presses automatic.
His orchestra, though thin and bass shy, is proficient. The woodwind soloists are no great shakes, but at least they don't wheeze, and the strings play sweetly, a hard thing to do without vibrato. Tempos are flowing in the first three movements but absurdly rushed in the finale. I wonder if Brahms intended his symphonies to be played without grandeur or eloquence? It's not as if he preferred small orchestras but that in certain cities like Neiningen, that's what he got. Numerous fans supposedly exist for this kind of revisionism, but it's been a long time since Gardiner, once a staple on DG, has landed on a major label as an orchestral conductor. Maybe his minimal talent outside the Baroque has caught up with him.
As with the previous installments in this series, the fillers are the best thing here. I don't like Brahms sung without vibrato, but in that vein the Monteverdi Choir is quite skillful. Only two items, the lovely Nanie and the Gesang der Parzen, were known to me. among the most abstruse rarities is a song for women's chorus that is accompanied in haunting fashion with horn and harp (Es tont ein voller Harfenklang). For male chorus there's a four-part a cappella song that's lovely if a bit generic in its mournfulness (Ich schwingt mein Horn in Jammertal). Most curious is a part-song for women''s chorus that uses as its tune the haunting "Leiermann" that ends Schubert's "Winterreise." It's hardly surprising that BBC Music Magazine raves, but how strange that they describe these anodyne performances as "urgent...magnificently angry."
Here's the complete program:
Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
Nänie von Friedrich Schiller, für Chor und Orchester, Op. 82
Ich schwing mein Horn ins Jammertal, Op. 41 No. 1
Es tönt ein voller Harfenklang, Op. 17 No. 1
Nachtwache I 'Leise Töne der Brust', Op. 104 No. 1
Einförmig ist der Liebe Gram, Op. 113 No. 13
Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89