Brahms, Weber, Elgar and Mozart

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Elgar and Mozart,Weber
LABELS: Green Label
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms, Weber, Elgar and Mozart
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: New Queen’s Hall Orchestra/John Farrer
CATALOGUE NO: GLM/NQ-1-01
This is one of those performances that was probably more enjoyable in the concert hall than it is on disc. There’s a freshness in the playing that illuminates familiar details in new ways – especially in the woodwind solo writing – which the recording captures well. I also like the grainy gut string sound in fuller orchestral passages. Unfortunately the recording also shines the spotlight on those passages where the strings aren’t quite together, so you tend to hear individual instruments rather than, say, a full violin section playing as one (especially noticeable in the delicate fast violin writing near the start of the Weber).

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Conductor John Farrer’s approach to the Brahms is well conceived as a whole, and it grows in excitement towards the end. But there’s nothing like the sustained intensity of the recent Jansons/Concertgebouw live recording. And there are moments –

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like the sudden outbreak of swoony, vibrato-rich violin playing in the first movement coda of the Brahms – which sound like a more-or-less plausible idea applied to the music rather than a direct insight into the expressive essence. Oddly enough, the most roundly convincing performance is the Mozart – the one where the New Queen’s Hall orchestra are technically out-of-period as far as the instruments go. The best modern recommendation for the Brahms is still the 1990 Haitink/Boston Symphony on Philips – more plush and homogenous in tone that the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra version (both a plus and a minus) – but organically coherent and full of well-contained Romantic feeling. Stephen Johnson