Brahms Symphony 1

Author: 
Ivan March

Brahms Symphony 1

  • Symphony No. 1

There is, as yet, no completely recommendable Brahms First on CD and this new version from Paita does not greatly alter the situation. His tempos are uncontroversial. The pacing of the introduction almost exactly matches Tennstedt's on EMI although the effect is not so heavy. The timpani register strongly (throughout the symphony one is more aware of the player's presence than usual). The orchestral balance has a bright upper range, with the middle and lower strings full bodied. There is plenty of weight in the bass, though the ambient effect is less rich than Tennstedt's. Paita's style is more flexible than Tennstedt's, with a nicely graduated slowing for the second group of the first movement. The rhythmic articulation in the allegro could be more precise. The andante has a rhapsodic feel, though not an exaggerated one. The third movement is a genuine grazioso, but otherwise is not especially individual. Then in the finale the voltage rises strikingly. The famous string tune sounds glorious (the Kingsway Hall acoustic adding to the amplitude in a natural way), and Paita's forward thrust produces genuine excitement without any aggressive over-driving, moving towards a great fff climax (at letter N in the Boosey & Hawkes score) just before the reprise of the horn call. The coda maintains the momentum, with some splendidly expansive playing in the brass chorale. This movement is altogether more effective than Wand's on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (who indulges in more gear-changes) and if the whole symphony had enjoyed this kind of tension it would have been a memorable performance indeed. But it is agreeable in its directness, less sober than Tennstedt's, less individually imaginative than Wand's.'

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