Brahms: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Johannes Brahms
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt


Klaus Tennstedt persistently championed Brahms’s First Symphony, but neither of his previously available London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) recordings are entirely satisfactory. The 1983 EMI account begins with a portentous and engaged first movement but thereafter gradually turns into a studio-bound affair lacking urgency and frisson, while the live 1990 version (on BBC Legends) displays at once a more vibrant demeanour and some dispiriting lapses of execution. I prefer both of these newly released accounts, although for very different reasons. The 1992 LPO version combines energy with polish; this sounds like a great occasion that elicited exceptional concentration from performers and audience alike. The only disappointment comes in the coda of the finale, which strikes me as unnecessarily stodgy despite its intensity. On balance, though, this is likely the recorded performance in which Tennstedt’s vision of Brahms’s First emerges to best advantage. I’m [not] convinced by the LPO coupling – a Brahms Third Symphony that takes a little while to hit its stride and even then seems inconsistently engrossing – but Tennstedt’s many admirers will find both of these releases most welcome.


David Breckhill