Brahms: Hungarian Dance

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Channel Classics
WORKS: Hungarian Dance No. 14; Haydn Variations; Symphony No. 1
PERFORMER: Budapest FO/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 28309

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  This beautifully recorded CD gets off to an auspicious start with an exquisitely phrased and subtly controlled account of Brahms’s 14th Hungarian Dance, highly effectively arranged for string orchestra by Iván Fischer. The haunting impact of this short piece sets the tone for the rest of the disc which is distinguished by some exceptionally insightful music-making.

The Haydn Variations, all too often treated as a mere filler to the more important symphonies, sounds particularly satisfying here with lots of fantastic inner detail, such as the precise triangle flourishes in the Finale. Fischer secures clarity of texture throughout without sacrificing any warmth. The character and mood of each variation is carefully delineated, with Mendelssohnian playfulness in the fifth and gracefulness in the seventh.

Fischer opens the First Symphony in a very striking but undeniably effective manner, the strings tracing the soaring chromatic melody with the same portamento rich sonority as in the Hungarian Dance. The ensuing Allegro sustains a suitably dynamic and urgent tone yet the approach is sufficiently flexible to enable the second subject to breathe and offer some sense of consolation.

There are some further intriguing Hungarian-flavoured string moments in a tender and sensitive account of the Andante sostenuto and a similar lightness of texture to the fifth of the Haydn Variations in the outer sections of the third movement.

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Yet perhaps the most exciting and riveting playing is reserved for the Finale where Fischer shows an unerring sense of pacing, coaxing the musical argument from the depths of despair in the opening to triumph, affirmation and elation at the close. Erik Levi