Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Martinu symphony No. 4

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COMPOSERS: Johannes Brahms; Bohuslav Martinu
LABELS: ICA Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Martinu symphony No. 4
WORKS: Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Martinu symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart/Klaus Tennstedt


The 1976 performance from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, on ICA Classics, has its share of rough playing (the orchestra is no LPO) but as compensation the emotional temperature is higher than in any other Tennstedt recording of this work – the music sweeps along irresistibly without undercutting the conductor’s fundamentally broad and weighty approach.

The ICA Classics release features rather diffuse recorded sound, which sometimes makes the magically fuzzy sonorities in Martinu˚’s Fourth Symphony uncomfortably vague. But Tennstedt’s performance is filled with volatility and insight (note the unusually nervous chattering of the winds in the first movement). The headlong impetus of the second and fourth movements is particularly effective, and Tennstedt’s broadening of the secondary theme in the finale exemplifies his warmhearted expressivity. I’m less 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 Breckbill