Symphony No. 1; Academic Festival Overture
NFM Wrocław Philharmonic/Giancarlo Guerrero
NFM ACD 277 59:57 mins
There’s a really strong historical connection between Brahms and the Polish city of Wrocław (or Breslau, as the composer would have known it). We know, for example, that the great man not only took an active interest in musical life there, but also that he composed the Academic Festival Orchestra in 1880 as a thank you to the local university for awarding him an honorary doctorate. Little wonder then that the Wrocław Philharmonic feels a special bond with this work, delivering a performance that bristles with energy and good humour, whilst projecting an exemplary lightness of touch.
The First Symphony, of course, is a much more highly charged affair, and here Giancarlo Guerrero negotiates the dramatic ebb and flow of the outer movements with skill and a good sense of forward momentum. The Wrocław Philharmonic is blessed with a warm, Central European string sound and a rich woodwind section whose solo oboist moulds the melodic line in the slow movement with great expressivity. A richly resonant recording nonetheless gives sufficient clarity to enable one to hear most of the contrapuntal intricacies in Brahms’s writing, though occasionally, as in the second subject of the first movement, the violas and cellos sound strangely recessed.