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Brahms: Symphony No.1, Op.68, Schumann: Symphony No.1, Op.38

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker orchestra
  • Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
  • Audio CD (April 21 1995)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GQ5
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #71,589 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Symphonie Nr. 1 C-moll Op. 68: 1. Un Poco Sostenuto - Allegro
2. Symphonie Nr. 1 C-moll Op. 68: 2. Andante Sostenuto
3. Symphonie Nr. 1 C-moll Op. 68: 3. Un Poco Allegretto E Grazioso
4. Symphonie Nr. 1 C-moll Op. 68: 4. Adagio - Allegro Non Troppo Ma Con Brio
5. Symphonie Nr. 1 B-dur Op. 38 - Fruhlings-Symphonie: 1. Andante Un Poco Maestoso - Allegro Molto Vivace
6. Symphonie Nr. 1 B-dur Op. 38 - Fruhlings-Symphonie: 2. Larghetto - (Attacca:)
7. Symphonie Nr. 1 B-dur Op. 38 - Fruhlings-Symphonie: 3. Scherzo. Molto Vivace
8. Symphonie Nr. 1 B-dur Op. 38 - Fruhlings-Symphonie: 4. Allegro Animato E Grazioso

Product Description


The performance of the Schumann is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the history of mankind. Thick, coagulated string textures with nary a woodwind in sight give plenty of ammunition to those who claim that Schumann couldn't orchestrate. The Brahms symphony is a bit better, but not much. Herbert von Karajan really was so much less successful in the basic German repertoire than he wanted everyone to think. That's probably why he recorded it so many times. No matter--this is not recommendable at all. --David Hurwitz

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Audio CD
Karajan conducts with his trademark smoothness, which works well with the soaring strings in these pieces. But, his lack of edge and attack results in a lack of excitement and involvement. For me, this condemns these recordings to background listening. Jochum, Solti (boxed), and Abbado had better success.
Sonically, the Brahms seems compressed for a DG recording, which results in a lack of depth. Worse yet, the orchestra was recorded with microphones separated too far apart so instruments appear on the far right or far left. This was a technique of early stereo to impress the listener with the extreme separation, and to contrast it with monophonic recordings; however, it is distracting and not realistic. The DG engineers did better with the Schumann (recorded 8 years later), which sounds more blended and natural, and opens up with more depth and detail.
No one seems to want to agree with the main editorial review, probably because these performances are not abysmal. However, there are better performances available, and certainly better engineered recordings.
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This version of Brahms's first symphony is considered by many folks (including Penguin and Grammophon) to be one of the best on record. I haven't heard the Schumann on this disc, but the Brahms symphony is worth the price of the CD by itself. The musical phrases are sharply defined, and while there is great energy, you don't feel pushed around and bullied like you do by Karajan's last recording, made in the '80s. The timpani at the opening are not drowned out by the strings, as on Karajan's '70s recording. Basically, Karajan had a special connection with this work, but--like his interpretations of Beethoven--his first try was the best. I'm very impressed with the gentle strokes and humane touches in the middle movements. This is not a thick and mushy performance--it is big and symphonic, but rich with clearly articulated details. The fourth movement opens with great mystery--nothing is rushed, nor held back. The beauty of the orchestra's playing is allowed to flow in each bar, while an underlying control is always evident. The final bars are the performance's finest moment! Everything is so crisp and alert, so bold without being heavy, you know that only a true genius could pull off a finale so splendidly! Abbado's digital version with the same orchestra is perhaps warmer and more epic, but Karajan's version (which sounds great in this "Originals" series release) has more punch to it. I hope I've said enough to convince you to buy it.
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The only thing Hurwitz has got right in the review above is that the Brahms performance is better than the Schumann. It would seem that he has let his obvious anti-Karajan bias(see some of his other reviews!) get the better of him here and, given that the Brahms is perhaps one of the best accounts of the symphony to have appeared, this bias should not dissuade potential buyers. The Gramophone review is far closer to the mark on this occasion. The Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan became noted for the smoothness of its playing,not always ideal,but in the Brahms, this approach works extremely well. Brahm's symphonies are remarkable for the way in which the germ of an idea is allowed to expand and, in this recording, the Berlin Philharmonic's playing complements the smoothness of Brahms's thematic development. The booklet notes draw attention to the way in which the various instruments blend to perfection within ensemble sections but can still sound suitably individual when necessary. This, really, all makes this disc very recommendable simply on accout of the Brahms and, while Karajan (of whom I am not an ardent fan) did have an irritating habit of recording 'standard' German repertoire several times(4 Beethoven cycles, 3 Brahms), he did get it right sometimes. This Brahms recording is one such example. As Hurwitz notes, the Schumann is less successful. Although this is far from being high on the list of recommended recordings, however, it still is not as bad as Hurwitz makes out. It is simply the kind of performance that one would expect from a large, modern symphony orchestra and, as a result, the textures do sound pretty stodgy in places. If you want to hear Schumann in the best way, try John Eliot Gardiner's recent cycle on Archiv.Read more ›
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This was the first recording of Brahms's first symphony I ever heard and it's the one I always return to. The power and majesty in the outer movements is breathtaking. The sense of torment especially in the first movement is gripping and wonderfully balanced by the serenity and quiet grandeur of the second movement. Where this performance really touches the soul though is in the final movement. The famous horn solo after the pizzicato introduction radiates like the first rays of sunrise and just when you think it couldn't be more beautiful, a sublime flute lifts the whole symphony into the light. This really is one of those moments (like the re-entrance of the orchestra after the first movement cadenza in the violin concerto) where Brahms gives us a glimpse of heaven. The rest of the movement is played with an energy and grandeur which sweeps you away in a river of pure joy. For me this is the definitive recording of the greatest first symphonies ever written.
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