Brahms Symphony No 1 etc

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Brahms Symphony No 1 etc

  • Symphony No. 1
  • Academic Festival Overture

Collins's disc contains a warning that it should not be played at a high volume level, since due to ''an extensively wide dynamic range'' damage to equipment could occur. I rather doubt that such a thing could happen in this case, since the recording is in fact backward, poorly defined and badly balanced. The first violins seem as if they are playing behind a veil, and though solo brass and woodwind emerge quite well from a somewhat sticky morass some details quite fail to register adequately. Frankly I have heard far better stereo recordings from the mid-1950s. This is hard luck on the excellent BBC Philharmonic and on Gunther Herbig, who conducts very likeable performances.
Since Herbig is not a familiar figure in UK record catalogues I should perhaps note that he was born during 1931 in Czechoslovakia, studied with Hermann Abendroth, Scherchen and Karajan, and was active in East Germany for many years. More recently he had a spell as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and he has been associated with the BBC Philharmonic for some years.
This is not his first recording of the Brahms First Symphony, since he recorded a Brahms cycle for Eterna, and his reading of the score is wise and experienced. There are few interpretative quirks, tempos are usually middle of the road (though the basic pulse of the third movement is on the fast side) and there is some pleasingly warm-hearted phrasing. Warmth and good sense are not quite enough in a Brahms symphony, however, and the work's granite strength and profundity of utterance are not adequately conveyed. The overture receives a similarly affable, fluent performance.
Recommendations for the symphony remain as discussed more fully in the October issue: Chailly on Decca at full-price; Wand (RCA), Klemperer (EMI) and Toscanini (RCA) at medium price, with Skrowaczewski (Pickwick) a good bargain-price alternative.'

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