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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on September 26, 2013
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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on August 25, 2010
I ordered this CD on 3/Aug as a gift with a 9 to 11 day delivery time. It's the 25th today and now the estimated delivery date is 9-14 Sep. Not good enough! This was a gift for my mom's birthday and she's now without my present.
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on June 6, 2004
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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on February 19, 2004
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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on November 23, 2003
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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on February 24, 2003
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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on February 20, 2003
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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on February 18, 2003
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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on February 18, 2003
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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on December 28, 2002
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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