Perhaps I should have waited a bit to write this brief review, because I'm still in the process of thinking about this performance of the Brahms First Symphony, a remastering of one installment in his recording of the composer's four symphonies with the Cleveland Orchestra. For a full Brahms cycle, my current preference is Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic on Sony -- a set of recordings that have heft and yet retain a good dose of humanity as we climb the mountains. If you prefer pure granite, then I would go with the classic Klemperer set on EMI. This Szell rendition, on the other hand, seems to go off in another set of dimensions, and I don't mean that as a criticism. There isn't the dose of vulnerable humanity that touches the Bernstein, and yet this relative absence of personal scale doesn't mean we're left with Klemperer's steep and rocky cliffs either. Much of the work, particularly the final movement, is taken rather fast, something which at first I found off putting but to which I've become accustomed after repeated listening. In a way, in this performance the Brahms First Symphony is rendered almost as if the early Romantic period had never happened, as if we'd gone straight from the Classical era of Haydn and Mozart straight into the second half of the 19th Century, bypassing Schumann and Weber and the like. So far, the recording is growing on me -- I don't know that it will ever surpass Bernstein, or Klemperer on my more expansive days, but I like it for its different take on a familiar work. And the Haydn Variations benefit from the same sensibility.