Gardner’s Unnecessary Brahms

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 9

There’s nothing wrong with these performances technically, and nothing interesting about them either. The orchestra plays well. Gardner chooses fleet tempos that keep the music moving. It’s all straightforward, eminently sensible, Brahms lite. Under the circumstances the Third comes off better than the first, if only because the first movement and finale benefit from Gardner’s swift pacing; but even here you come to miss the lack of power at the climaxes, the players’ refusal to really dig into the music.

This sort of approach is absolutely lethal in the First Symphony. Just listen to the passage leading to the first movement’s recapitulation, where Brahms screws the tension tighter and tighter before plunging back into the first subject. Nothing happens here. The finale, too, needs greater weight, and a more emphatic handling of rhythm. You listen in frustration for a passage that suggests that the music matters; that important issues are being discussed. I can see how these performances would have been enjoyable at a typical subscription concert, but there was no reason whatsoever to preserve them on disc,

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Dohnanyi/Cleveland (Warner); Jochum (DG)

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