The Munich Phil. has never been a first-rate ensemble, although with conductors like Celibidache and James Levine, they haven't wanted for talent on the podium. DG has been releasing new recordings form them under their new diector, Christian Thielemann, and as it happens, the Brahms First is one of those. He gets more intense and accomplished playing from his orchestra than Kempe does on this archival performance. The sound is average stereo but with recessive timpani, a problem in the opening bars of the first movement where the last thing Brahms wanted was a remote tap-tap-tap.
Setting all that aside, Kempe gives a gentle, lyrical, flowing account. Although he was considered a traditionalist, this isn't the Brahms First of Furtwangler, Knappertsbusch, or Klemperer. It never thunders or yearns to be epic. What saves the performance form blandness is Kempe's expertness at balance and phrasing. He never lets the meloic line sag or loses the thread of Brahms' logic (faults that I find with Ormandy, Barenboim, Alsop, and Chailly). In the end I'm not sure that Brahms should be tamed and muzzled, but the result is certainly civilized.
by general agreement the Sym. #3 is the trickiest to handle, one reason being that the composer keeps to a moderate tempo in all four movements (there's no real Adagio, no spirited Scherzo or racing finale). Kempe doesn't go for heroic contrasts as a solution, the way that Karajan triumphantly does, nor does he speed up the movements in the Toscanini-Szell mode. Instead, he keeps to the same lyrical approach as in the First, and since the Third isn't nearly as heroic, Kempe's style works better here. If you like the tender style of late Bruno Walter, here's its first cousin.