Monday, February 20, 2012

Brahms recordings, my two cents

To follow up on my previous post — my favorite recording of the Brahms Symphonies is by Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic. Not the one Walter did with the Columbia Symphony, which followed by about the decade. It's good, but no better than a dozen others by big-name conductors and orchestras. The NYPO disks were released in the early fifties. They're monaural, but electronically recorded. The sound quality is perfectly acceptable, and the readings are superb — brisk, tight, energetic. The approach is especially telling in the first two movements of the Symphony No. 2, which are faster here than in most other recordings. The music is often played as a pastoral daydream, but in Walter's interpretation, it sounds like Bach, with an emphasis on counterpoint and movement. Just thrilling. And the rest of the symphonies are of the same caliber. You know how with some pieces, especially the most familiar ones, you like to collect many different versions to compare them. Well, as regards the Brahms symphonies, once I acquired the Walter-NYPO disks, that urge went away.

I feel the same way about my recording of the two piano concertos, with Leon Fleisher and Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. That's it for me. No others required. Desirable, perhaps, but not required.

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