Grand Romanticism From Provincial Eastern Sweden

Review by: Jens F. Laurson


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

The world of classical music is divided into those who find Arnold Schoenberg’s liberally late-romantic orchestration of the Brahms Piano Quartet an ingenious work of alluring beauty–and those who are wrong. The Romans were talking through their hat when they suggested “de gustibus non disputandum est” as a maxim, as regards this work. It’s a brilliant, over-the-top piece that one-ups Brahms at every corner and it succeeds precisely by not being a thin-lipped, innovation-averse version of “what exactly might Brahms have done”. Even though that’s what Schoenberg (perhaps jesting) claimed he did. The result works for the same reason that Barshai’s performing version of the Mahler 10th is so good.

It’s a shame that there aren’t more great recordings of it, though. Somehow very few do that absolute grandness of the work justice. This one does. Not quite as grandly as the reference with Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony (RCA, out of print), but Jaime Martín and the where-in-the-world-is-Gävle Symphony Orchestra do their best imitation of a brawny, gorgeously toned large philharmonic orchestra, and they have got that late romantic vernacular down pat. The relative brisk tempo of the Andante trades luxuriousness (as with Eschenbach or Dohnányi [Decca]) for taking “con moto” seriously, which is fair enough. The transparency allows all the various instruments to rear their heads in the gung-ho Rondo finale. The Hubert Parry Elegy for Brahms is an inspired filler. The rarely performed and absolutely gorgeous symphonic work (an ideal overture for concert programming) is a dear tribute to Brahms; less imitative and more luscious than expected.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Eschenbach/Houston (RCA); Craft/Chicago (CBS/Sony)

    Gävle Symphony Orchestra, Jaime Martín

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