I ordered this disc from Amazon in the United Kingdom, a couple of months before it became available in the United States. I gave it a rave review on that Web site and feel compelled to repeat that review here: Thank God for the Internet! If not for it, Americans like me would hardly be able to lay hands on this extraordinary disc. And extraordinary it is, boasting superlative performances of two of Brahms' most important works in rich, velvety, and ideally balanced sound. The Double Concerto, long my favorite of Brahms' four concerti, here gets the performance of its life. Praise, first, to the two solists, who play as one; more than once during the first movement, where the violin begins a downward passage only to be taken up by the 'cello, or the 'cello begins an upward passage to be continued by the violin, I couldn't tell where one soloist left off and the other began. Such synergy is woefully rare in performances of this piece and here bespeaks (finally!) the matching...
Abbado has been guilty of giving us dull Brahms in the past; what I've heard of his set of the symphonies with Berlin has little that's memorable. Abbado has a great gift of sensitivity, but this gift can backfire on him, causing him to turn out music that just rides along. All the same, when inspiration hits him, which happens more often than not, you couldn't ask for a better, more interesting musician. Thankfully this disc, recorded shortly before Rattle took over the Berliners, is highly convincing. Abbado proves to be a phenomenal conductor and the Berliners play like what they are--the greatest Brahms orchestra in the world.
Gil Shaham is the soloist in the Violin Concerto. From the start it's a given that he will play with confidence, but he goes further. He instills sweetness in his tone, making a delightful world of warmth. Since this is Berlin, we're assured a wonderful big sound, but Abbado isn't going for excitement. He creates a pastoral atmosphere,...
This is the latest big name Brahms violin concerto recording- Hahn and Chung have both released recordings recently as well. I have reviewed the Hahn on amazon. This new recording from Shaham is a rather unusual modern recording for a couple of reasons. - It's quite fast, first of all. Heifetz fans should be pleased. The average first mvt these days goes around.. 22-24 minutes, but Shaham and Abbado take it in 20'50. Not 18'50, but the dramatic sections seem to speed up appropriately; the orchestral introduction is nearly exactly Heifetz/Reiner tempo. The second mvt is 8'30, the last a very sprightly 7'30. (compare to Heifetz 7'20 or... Chung 8'30). -It's a live recording; the balance is NOT forward on Shaham. This is not a problem in that you can hear very well the orchestra (one of my complaints about Hahn's recording was the forward balance), but Shaham's tone seems a bit more streamlined than it does in say, his Barber/Korngold recording, and sometimes it's hard to...
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