A Fine New Disc Of Brahms Serenades From Ondine

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

The Brahms serenades have done well enough on disc, but does anyone ever program them in concert anymore? They do have their quirky features–the First Serenade’s loosely structured six movements, with that very long Adagio, and the Second Serenade’s unique scoring omitting violins entirely–but they are both lovely works, and thoroughly characteristic of their composer. There have been excellent recordings over the years, three personal favorites being those of Haitink, Mackerras, and Belohlavek. This newcomer bids fair to join them.

The Gävle Symphony Orchestra lacks the tonal allure of Haitink’s Concertgebouw Orchestra, and its woodwinds can’t rival the personality of Belohlavek’s Czech Philharmonic, but it plays very well for Jaime Martín, who offers extremely vivid and persuasive interpretations. In the First Serenade, he lets the trumpets and horns sing out boldly in the outer movements, while the strings really dig into their rustic bagpipe drones in the second scherzo. The problematic Adagio, relatively swift, also flows expressively. In short, Martín relishes the colorful scoring and movement-to-movement contrasts.

The Second Serenade, though shorter, was the work in which Brahms learned how to exploit the coloristic charms of the woodwind section. Here, as already suggested, the comparisons don’t always favor the Gävle players, good as they are, but Martín compensates with an unusually forthright and positive interpretation. The first Scherzo is just delicious, and the closing Rondo, with its perky piccolo writing, couldn’t be more charming. Martín’s lively tempos truly cheat the clock, while excellent sonics round off an extremely appealing disc.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Haitink (Philips); Belohlavek (Supraphon)

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