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Brahms: Symphony No. 2 - Hungarian Dances

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Symphonie n°2, op.73 - Danses hongroises / London Philharmonic Orchestra, dir. Marin Alsop

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Here, Marin Alsop follows up her successful recording of Brahms's First Symphony with an equally fine Second. The first movement has great warmth but moves ahead with conviction; the second is devoid of any unwanted density of tone; the third has real class, and the final movement is exciting, with dazzling brass. The selection of Hungarian Dances is varied and handsomely performed. At this price, this is a front-runner. --Robert Levine
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Product Details

  • Performer: Brahms, Alsop, London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Audio CD (October 11, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B000B6N67W
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,512 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 11, 2005
Format: Audio CD
First a couple of stories about the writing of the Brahms Second Symphony. He began it in his first summer at a retreat on Lake Wörth in southern Austria where, he said 'Melodies are so abundant you have to be careful not to step on them.' Certainly, in this symphony he scooped up numbers of them. He must have been in an exuberant mood as he was composing it because he twitted his notoriously prim and humorless musical friend, Elizabeth von Herzogenberg, by writing her that the symphony was basically just a series of F minor chords played first ff and then pp, the joke being that there is not a single F minor chord in the symphony. It is in sunny D major. Some have called the Second Brahms's 'Pastoral' Symphony.

This performance led by Marin Alsop reminds me of a couple of recordings that I know and love well, those by Kurt Sanderling and the Dresden Staatskapelle and by, of all people, Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia. Largely this is because she takes a leisurely approach that simply revels in the harmonic luxuriance of all four movements, never rushing, never forcing the drama (as in the climaxes of the first movement) but letting the music speak for itself without artificially added histrionics. She is aided immensely by the London Philharmonic's masterly playing. The strings are positively silken; their tone seems to have, particularly in the slower legato sections, an added depth of dark chocolaty tone. The horns, particularly the solo horn, are equally rich and dark. The other winds sound appropriately Germanic, even though this is an English orchestra; I wonder if that is a conscious decision on their part? The brasses, especially the trombones, are mellow but still dramatic when need be.
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Format: Audio CD
Though not a revelatory version of the 2nd, Alsop's presentation sweeps along beautifully and shimmers in all the right places. Perhaps she meanders a bit in the Adagio, but I find much to relish in Alsop's pacing and lyricism. This is a nice new version of one of my favorite (perhaps my favorite) symphonies, and I have revisited it several times. If you love Brahms, I think you will find much to enjoy in this new recording!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I approached this second disc in the Marin Alsop series on Naxos with some caution, given my mixed reactions to the first symphony on SACD, as well as some of the down sides of the comments the Amazon posted reviewers have made. My objections to the Alsop First Symphony involved mostly the dislocated sonics that came from using that markedly unwise venue, the Watford Colosseum. I like Alsop's approach to the composer well enough to actually wish to be able to hear it, well. Her tendencies to bring out Brahm's polyphony without unraveling the larger melodic/harmonic forward motion only makes sound and aural staging more pertinent concerns. So as a happy starting note, one can see this Second Symphony has been recorded in another, much better venue, London's Blackheath Concert Hall. Catching this break, one immediately wishes we had another go at SACD. (So I waited and waited before trying this second out. What is Naxos thinking these days? Do any of the company people actually listen to their own catalog?) On the disc filler of eight of the orchestrated version of the Hungarian Dances, we return to the Watford. Oh well, give that venue another chance I suppose, so long as it doesn't get to sabotage one's potential enjoyment of the Second Symphony.

My steadfast standard in the second has involved an old, wonderful stereo recording, led by Pierre Monteux with the Vienna Philharmonic. Some day it may get remastered again, and if Universal Classics lets Sony BMG lead the way, we might even get an SACD hybrid disc like the BMG Living Stereo series.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Female conductors get more criticism than they deserve, and being a lesbian doesn't help -- it just seems to fan the flames, but the performance of the orchestra nevertheless is a flawless interpretation of Brahms.
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Format: MP3 Music
Alsop provides an extremely clear reading of the score. The balance and delineation between the separate stages of exposition and development in the first movement was impressive. The tempos are appropriately ponderous, and I have never so well appreciated the tonal continuity between this work and the Clarinet Quintet.

(I agree with some previous reviews, that this interpretation may not be suitable to someone looking for a racy interpretation. But I strongly dislike Karajan's interpretation of this particular symphony. To readers looking for a more exciting interpretation I also recommend Eugen Jochum on DG).
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Format: Audio CD
Alsop's reading is a very tight, cozy, safe-sounding one that should play well over the years, radiant and amiable, with plenty of lyrical sentiment expressed throughout. Comfy sound, too.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
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Format: Audio CD
Alsop's interpretation of Brahms #2 is sensitive and nicely phrased, but it is almost too lyrical. What that means in musical terms is that she does not allow for any pauses between phrases, or for enough contrast between them. Each one seamlessly blends into the next, which gives this performance a cinematic quality, almost as if it were background music to a lovely period film set in the 19th century English countryside. Occasionally it rains, but in general it is sunny and mild. That being said, you can listen to this performance with only half an ear and appreciate it while you are doing something else. But if you want to listen with your whole ear, I would recommend the Solti recording with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Decca). It has the right blend of lyricism and fire. Or, if you would rather forget your ear entirely, and simply go for your gut, try John Eliot Gardiner's earth-moving peformance. The last movement will knock your socks off.
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