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The Best Brahms in Stereo, May 3, 2004

Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 4 / Haydn Variations / Alto Rhapsody / Academic & Tragic Overtures (Great Recordings of the Century)
I remember when Stereo Review's "The Basic Repetoire" of 1960 reviewed some of these performances. They spoke of the "rare spiritual communion" of the First Symphony, the "rocklike grandeur and nobility" of the Third, and the "heroic conception" of the Fourth. I would add that the Third has a flowing, graceful lyricism that is only equalled by the legendary Mengelberg recording, that the Second is overbrming with joy and high spirits, that the Fourth is both grave and volatile, a very exciting combination of qualities, and that the First is probably the greatest I have ever heard, stunning in it's heroic stride. Likewise, can there be any Alto Rhapsody to equal this, with Christa Ludwig? And the Haydn Variations are very fleet and volatile, sharing honors with the likes of Weingartner, Furtwangler and Toscanini/NYPH. The remastering is amazing; it is beyond dispute that EMI was already making superbly natural-sounding stereo recordings back in...

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If I had to go to that deserted island, I would be in doubt of which of these 3 CDs to take with me. I have perhaps 500 classical CDs, but this box stands out. I am not going to write very much, however: Brahms is my favourite composer. Brahms was Klemperer's favourite composer. His conducting is perfect all the way. These are so-called slow interpretations, i.e. compared to Toscanini and Walter, but not slow compared to, say Abbado; I think these tempos are perfectly suited to bring out the richness of the texture. The result I will describe as civilized, human, warm, even hot, dramatic, strictly to the point, even sharp, although there are sharper interpretations out there, but they don't got the same lyrical intensity as Klemperer's.
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I remember when Stereo Review's "The Basic Repetoire" of 1960 reviewed some of these performances. They spoke of the "rare spiritual communion" of the First Symphony, the "rocklike grandeur and nobility" of the Third, and the "heroic conception" of the Fourth. I would add that the Third has a flowing, graceful lyricism that is only equalled by the legendary Mengelberg recording, that the Second is overbrming with joy and high spirits, that the Fourth is both grave and volatile, a very exciting combination of qualities, and that the First is probably the greatest I have ever heard, stunning in it's heroic stride. Likewise, can there be any Alto Rhapsody to equal this, with Christa Ludwig? And the Haydn Variations are very fleet and volatile, sharing honors with the likes of Weingartner, Furtwangler and Toscanini/NYPH. The remastering is amazing; it is beyond dispute that EMI was already making superbly natural-sounding stereo recordings back in...
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Otto Klempeerer owes his late career in London and on EMI records to von Karajan. Since its founding in 1949, the Philharmonia Orch. was closely allied with Karajan, who built it up as his own career took off after the war. But when Furtwangler died in 1954 and his arch-rvial Karajan took over the Berlin Phil., the impressario of the Philharmonia, Walter Legge, knew that he neeeded a new stellar conductor or his orchestra would fail. He chose Klemperer, then almost forgotten and already past 65 when he made his initial appearances in London in 1951.Legge's gamble paid off. Klemperer became the darling of London critics and audiences, and his performance style--measured, serious, with impeccable integrity--became the standard in Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms. He cared little for beauty of sound, smooth phrasing, or stylistic refinement. Words like "granitic" and "primordial" were used regularly.Is he the antithesis of Karajan, who valued everything that...
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