• Alexander's Playlist: Brahms: The Four Symphonies

    By Alexander Neef

    General Director Alexander Neef shares his favourite music recordings in this series of weekly recommendations.

    Brahms: The Four Symphonies
    Deutsche Grammophon, 1991
    Claudio Abbado
    Berliner Philharmoniker

    This week, I want to recommend an album that I would place without hesitation among my “desert island” discs: the Berlin Philharmonic’s recording of Brahms’ The Four Symphonies under the Italian conductor Claudio Abbado.

    In these late-‘80s and early-‘90s recordings, Abbado’s conducting is tremendously self-assured, possessing a clear sense of the structure and flow of Brahms’ music. Indeed, under Abbado, the virtuosic forces of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra manage to strike a perfect balance between the architectural, stately qualities of the composer’s work and its lush and romantic elements. In my listening, I find it is typical of many Brahms recordings to commit too much to one of these poles at the expense of the other — but Abbado’s rendition opts instead for a stunning reconciliation of these elements, revealing their simultaneous presence in Brahms’ beautiful compositions.

    In addition to the justly famous Four Symphonies, this album features many lesser-known Brahms works, including an assortment of choral pieces that set texts by notable German poets like Schiller, Goethe, and Hölderlin, to provide a very rich and complete picture of Brahms.

    Finally, the sound of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, whose playing is impeccable throughout, is captured with a special, warm glow on this recording, making it a truly indispensable album that rewards and surprises.

    ––Alexander Neef

    Music credit: Brahms: The Four Symphonies, conductor Claudio Abbado with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Deutsche Grammophon

    Posted in Alexander's Playlist


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