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5.0 out of 5 stars Brahms - depth and feeling
I just love Brahms and this is a great set of his symphonies by a first rate conductor. An asset to every collection.
Published 10 months ago by Laurence Gaymer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There's something missing.
I'm thoroughly convinced that the best interpretations of Brahms's symphonies belong to a much earlier generation of conductors--Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Otto Klemperer, Eugen Jochum, and a host of lesser names veiled in the mists of time. The next wave of conductors, influenced heavily by Toscanini (who was actually a fine Brahmsian according to many...
Published on July 14 2000 by Fan of Fred Williamson


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5.0 out of 5 stars Brahms - depth and feeling, Sept. 26 2013
By 
Laurence Gaymer (Shoeburyness, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
I just love Brahms and this is a great set of his symphonies by a first rate conductor. An asset to every collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the Greatest Symphonies in History, Feb. 19 2004
By 
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Johannes Brahms is, I believe, one of the greatest composers that ever lived, and is certainly high on my list of favorites. His symphonies are full of various feelings - happy, sad, or angry - that other composers simply avoid. I've come to the point where happy and merry music just won't do.
After listening to the collection, I've been amazed by firsts and lasts: the First and Fourth Symphonies; and each of their First and Fourth Movements. These pieces of music evoke some of the strongest feelings, which is why I consider these my favorites.
Overall, the rest of the Symphonies are pretty good as well, with two bonus tracks: the Academic Festival and Tragic Overtures. Anyone who admires Brahms MUST OWN this collection. It is a high-quality collection that has a very clear sound which is worth every dollar it costs. You will not regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solti in Top Form, Feb. 24 2003
By 
Daniel Graser "saxgod685" (Wappingers Falls, New York United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
While I'm not very fond of Solti doing Mahler (escept for #8, wow) he really pulls every detail out of the masterful Brahms symphonies. The Chicago Symphony is wonderful and the sound for a 30 year year old recording is phenomenal. I'm not going to draw out this review as you can clearly see by the rest of the reviews that this is a marvelous set and to sell it for only 30 bucks seems criminal. Buy it. Now. I'm serious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb recording, great sound, Feb. 20 2003
By 
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
I bought this on a recommendation from someone who shares my love for Mozart's symphonies. I was struck by the superb sound quality of the discs. The performances are great and I'm sure the pieces will grow on me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There's something missing., July 14 2000
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
I'm thoroughly convinced that the best interpretations of Brahms's symphonies belong to a much earlier generation of conductors--Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Otto Klemperer, Eugen Jochum, and a host of lesser names veiled in the mists of time. The next wave of conductors, influenced heavily by Toscanini (who was actually a fine Brahmsian according to many critics), has all too often come up short in its interpretations of Brahms. I'm speaking mainly of Karajan and Solti. Unlike Karajan's often grossly smoothed out yet messy attempts, Solti's Brahms sounds exceedingly well planned and executed. He obviously made a thorough study of these works and drilled his orchestra to do exactly what he wanted. The Chicago Symphony plays with all of the precision one would expect from a group of that calibre. So what is missing? Well, it's hard to put my finger on it, but I would say that the main weakness of this set is Solti's inexpressive phrasing. He does not tighten or slacken the tempo in certain phrases as intuitively as Jochum or Furtwaengler, resulting in a Brahms that is choppy and often cold. It's not that Solti's approach is always uptight. In the slow movements he actually seems a little too relaxed. I personally couldn't feel the pulse as strongly as I would like, a weakness that has been the Achilles' heel of many recent cycles, such as Sawallisch's and Abbado's. Solti is at his best in movements which display his ability to sort out the details of heavy orchestration, such as the final movement of the Second and the 3rd movement of the Fourth. In fact, clarity is never a problem for Solti. And these are very impressive readings when heard for the first time. But, unlike his Beethoven cycle, Solti's Brahms did not wear well on my ears over time. For all their impeccable execution, these performances left me feeling empty. One only has to compare Solti's and Barenboim's Fourth (both with the Chicago Symphony) to realize what is lacking here: for all of Barenboim's eccentricities, all his apparent shortcomings in getting everything "just right", we at least have a performance with some spiritual force. All in all, Barenboim's cycle--in spite of its poor Erato sound, excessive tempo changes, and sloppy moments--is considerably more enjoyable than Solti's. But to hear Brahms performed with precision and feeling, one ought to explore Jochum's cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic, recorded in the 1950s. Even the mono sound does not get in the way of Jochum's incredibly fulfilling interpretations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bold and Raunchy Brahms, June 6 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
If you like your Brahms on the lame side like Georg Szell then this might not be for you. However, I love the freedom and emoting this orchestra does for Solti...much more exciting then the Cleveland orchestra foray.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Too loud. Acoustics could be better., Nov. 23 2003
By 
Stephen Taylor (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
I'm going to voice the one heretical opinion among all the other reviews here. While I think these performances are generally great and the price is good for a 4-CD set, you might also take a look at some if the other recordings out there. Frankly I don't think the acoustics are as great as the reviewers below said. The upper strings sound piped-in in a lot of places. In that majestic, lyrical part of the fourth movement of the C minor symphony (the one that reminded "every jackass", as Brahms said, of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"), the strings just don't sound nearly as rich and balanced as they should -- there's too much violin and not enough cello and bass. Also (and I think this is the case with most of the great symphony orchestras), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is simply too big and too loud. Feel free to call it nutty personal preference if you like, but I would actually go for some of the lower-key "budget" recordings instead.
I'm not going to pick too many bones with Solti here, but basically I didn't find his interpretation of Brahms' symphonies to be all that original. He could have chosen a faster tempo for a couple of the movements. The dazzling, teary-eyed 2nd movement of the D major symphony (my personal favorite) sounds kind of lazy and limp. That said, though, Solti tackles the Tragic Overture and the 4th Symphony with absolutely unrivalled force -- breathtaking.
I would check out a variety of performances by several different conductors (Solti included) instead of buying this full-scale boxed set. Christoph von Dohnányi did a very fine version of the 2nd Symphony with the Cleveland Orchestra -- it's so smooth you could almost melt (it's also coupled with the Haydn-Variationen, not available on this recording). The Naxos recordings under Alexander Rahbari are good, too. They might lack the (overrated) commercial prestige of the Decca label and the personal imprint of Sir Georg Solti, but they are newer recordings and sound great. For even more variety, take a look at Naxos' interesting set of Brahms' symphonies arranged for two pianos. Available individually and selling for only around eight bucks each, you can't go too wrong.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Brahms!, Feb. 18 2003
By 
Nathan (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Solti is one of my all time favorite conductors, and this inexpensive set of Brahms'great symphonies (and overtures) are beyond praise. Well-judged tempo, extraordinary phrase climaxes and interpretations, and possibly the best 1st symphony and Academic Overture I've heard. BRAVO!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Brahms: The Romantic George Solti, Feb. 18 2003
By 
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Sir George Solti is one of the most recorded conductors. He made the famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra a household name in classical music. He is a unique artist, ambitious, driven, perfectionist, sensible, stylish and full of fire. George Solti is clearly comfortable conducting music of the 19th century Romantic Era. Time and again he has proven his might in such music as Wagner operas and Beethoven symphonies, chamber music, overtures and piano concerti. Johannes Brahms was a prolific and outstanding composer in the late nineteenth century, considered by many to be the worthy successor to Beethoven himself. Brahms combined the inspirational, emotionally sensitive and dramatic music of the new Romantic movement with the balanced perfection and structure of the Classical movement. While the leading composers Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner dedicated themselves to "music of the future", Brahms glorified the music of the past.
Sir George Solti becomes Johannes Brahms himself when he conducts the four symphonies which marked his career. The first symphony is orchestrated with fresh interpretation, elegant, spirited and full of human warmth and emotion. The last movement of Brahm's first symphony, which had mixed reviews at its premiere, was compared to the Ode to Joy theme. Brahms did not deny this, saying, "Any idiot can see that." Brahms evidently lifted the theme and made a variation. He did not hide the fact that Beethoven was his real inspiration and he praised him in a symphony that, to this day, is still regarded as Beethoven's 10th .
The second and third symphonies are exact, precise, well orchestrated in the hands of the Chicago Symphony and George Solti pulls through with magnetism, subtle elegance and attention to detail, full of the romantic flavor that Brahms is most loved for. The classical structure, perfect balance and poise, color in every individual instrument, is each a component of the masterful symphonies of Brahms. The fourth symphony, although still in lines with the same style, is perhaps more romantic than its preceding symphonies. The Fourth opens with a haunting, romantic theme, a lyric string section which seems to despair with the drama and tragic context of the full orchestra. The fourth is undoubtedly Brahms' finest symphony, as it is his last and ultimately his lasting mark in the musical world.
The Tragic and Academic Festival Overtures come with this box set. The Tragic Overture, hence its name, is full of the pathos of an unexplainable tragedy, human in emotion and dark in scope. Only Brahms could spin out such intensely despairing melodies, making it a trademark of the romantic movement. The Academic Festival is lighter, more spirited and joyous. It was composed as Brahms was being honored with a degree in music at a German university. In the 19th century, institutions of education in Germany were the finest in the world, equal to Oxford in England and the East Coast Ivy League schools in America. The Academic Festival Overture begins with variations on student's songs which Brahms had heard on campus, with "Janissary" flavor, Turkish instruments such as timpani and cymbals, long held as festive from the standards of Mozart days. The last theme is a declaration of joy and praise to wisdom. For those who like to pinpoint certain things, the Academic Festival Overture is used in movie and commercials when they show a college campus. It was the "Acme University" theme in the old cartoon series, "Tiny Toons." Sir George Solti is the best interpretor of Brahms symphonies and overtures. He has substance, he has style and surpasses even those of Karajan conducting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars From compositions to cost: a superb 4-cd collection, Dec 28 2002
By 
Todd Ebert (Long Beach California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
Brahms's four symphonies represent a good example of
"quality over quantity". Like most perfectionists, Brahms was his own worst critic, and the very fact that he considered these symphonies worthy of publishing says volumes about their musical value. Moreover, they are more than deserving of the time and effort invested in them by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conductor Georg Solti, and London records (my deepest gratitude goes out to all who played a part in bringing about these superb recordings). And given that this four-cd collection is priced less than two cds makes it head-and-shoulders above most other current bargains. If I had a nickel for every time I've listened to one of these symphonies, I might have enough to buy a back-up copy!
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