ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Piano Concertos,Violin Concerto; Double ConcertoAcademic Festival Overture; Haydn Variations; Serenade No. 2; Tragic Overture
PERFORMER: Krystian Zimerman (piano); Vienna PO/BernsteinKremer (violin), MaiskyVienna PO/Leonard Bernstein
CATALOGUE NO: 073 4332/073 4333/073 4354
in this brahms cycle, filmed 1981 to 1984, the interaction between Lenny, in all his smiling, shoulder-swinging, air-bowing glory, and the comparatively poker-faced VPO, is fascinating to watch. His introductory lectures offer a portrait of Brahms from every conceivable angle, but Bernstein’s words come back to haunt him when he reminds us of the many indications for moderation in these scores and then proceeds to ignore practically every one of them!
In the piano concertos with a young Krystian Zimerman the overall approach is similar to that for the symphonies, but the ebb and flow seem more natural. Zimerman’s unaccompanied solos in the slow movement of No. 1 are exquisitely yearning, and his technical gifts carry him effortlessly through the last movement’s treacherous coda. There is an unfortunate collision amongst the horns ten minutes into the first movement but they acquit themselves marvellously in No. 2, of which the last movement is served with plenty of paprika (HHHH).
In the double concerto, Kremer and Maisky turn every solo into a brake-slamming epic event. Still, the last movement has a nostalgic tone appropriate to Brahms’s last orchestral exploration of the gypsy idiom. In the Violin Concerto, Kremer is lean and energetic in the first movement, but Reger’s solo violin prelude based on the opening solo is a rather unappetising cadenza. Kremer’s speedy jaunt through the last two movements also leaves one unfulfilled, with only his left hand dexterity to admire (HHH).
The final Brahms disc offers meagre fare. The A major serenade lacks intimacy and polish; the central Adagio starts horribly out of tune, while the woodwinds tend to overpower the strings. In the overtures, both conductor and orchestra look and sound bored, and picture and sound get out of sync. The Haydn Variations, however, draw glowing, burnished tone from the orchestra, with every variation proportionate to the whole, every gesture controlled and meaningful. Recorded in 1973, they offer a welcome glimpse of an earlier Bernstein (HH).Howard Goldstein