Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4

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LABELS: Weltbild
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Grosses SO/Hans Swarowsky
CATALOGUE NO: 704031 ADD (distr. Priory)
In one sense these aren’t really interpretations at all, but a fascinating laying bare of Brahms’s intentions. Swarowsky was famous for his fidelity to the score, and this comes through right from the beginning of the First Symphony. Tempi are stuck to and detail is accommodated without the need to put the foot on either accelerator or brake. When there is a departure from the letter of the score – in the sluggish first bar of the Second Symphony, for instance – it comes as quite inexplicable and shocking. Swarowsky is constantly aiming for complete clarity of texture, and in these performances the expression lies in the detail, which the orchestra provides in spades: there’s rhythmic precision, impeccable attention to phrasing and internal balance, and, in the strings, thoughtful use of vibrato. It appears from the booklet notes that Swarowsky used a smaller than normal orchestra, but the lean string sound warms up for the more expressive passages. Though the recording is on the dry side, the committed playing that Swarowsky inspires shines through. Martin Cotton