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Classical - Released June 4, 2021 | ECM New Series

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Arnold Schoenberg called him "Brahms the Progressive". Whilst Johannes Brahms’s musical language and formal cosmos were deeply rooted in the past, by burrowing into the music of Bach and Beethoven he brought forth compositional fabrics of a tight-knit perfection that pointed far into the future. Yet, over years of continuously evolving interpretations, Brahms’s oeuvre has acquired an inappropriate heaviness more likely to conceal the fabric of his music than to unveil the subtle intricacies of its "developing variations", to quote Schoenberg’s term for his compositional method. András Schiff emphasizes precisely this point in his new recording of the two piano concertos with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. These developments, need it be said, are also related to changing performance conditions and transformations in society. But it is not always easy to say where the causal chain began. What is certain is that the growth of a global audience for music – with a corresponding increase in volume levels, larger concert halls and ever more massive ensembles and sturdier instruments – has led to a distorted image of Brahms that cries out for correction. After all, as Schiff puts it, Brahms’s music is "transparent, sensitive, differentiated and nuanced in its dynamics". In order to bring this to light, however, we must recall the performance conditions of Brahms’s day and reconstruct them as best we can. The Meiningen Court Orchestra, one of Europe’s most progressive and highly acclaimed orchestras of the era, and Brahms’s personal favourite (he conducted it in the première of his Fourth Symphony in 1885), consisted at times of no more than 49 musicians with nine first violins. Moreover, the pianos he preferred, mainly built by the firms of Streicher, Bösendorfer and Blüthner, were more limpid in their sound, richer in overtones, and responded to a lighter touch. András Schiff already turned to period instruments on some of his earlier recordings for ECM’s New Series, including his two double albums with Schubert’s late piano works, for which he used a fortepiano built by Franz Brodmann in 1820. He had used the same instrument for his double album with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, contrasting this version with a reading of the same work on a Bechstein grand of 1921. Now Sir András has chosen the conductor-less Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with its period instruments, for his recording of the two Brahms Concertos. And he plays an historic grand piano built by the Leipzig firm of Julius Blüthner in 1859. The result is nothing less than an attempt "to recreate and restore the works, to cleanse the music and to liberate it from the burden of the –often questionable- trademarks of performing tradition". At times the recordings take on the quality of chamber music, as is especially telling in the last two movements of the B-flat Major Concerto, Op. 83. The result is a performance that approaches the original character of the sound, revealing those layers of the works that emphasise the dialogue between soloist and orchestra – and dispelling the preconception that the Second Concerto is a "symphony with piano obbligato". © ECM New Series
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Classical - Released May 10, 2019 | Naxos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Brahms’ string concertos are indissolubly linked with the musicians for whom the works were written. He wrote his Violin Concerto for Joseph Joachim, and in it he combined what a contemporary critic termed ‘the great and serious’ with songful lyricism, melodic beauty, and a fiery Hungarian finale. To mend a breach with the violinist, Brahms later composed a concerto with the unusual combination of violin and cello, the latter played at the premiere by Joachim’s colleague Robert Hausmann. Neither instrument predominates in a work of reconciliation that embodies both drama and reflection. © Naxos
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Chamber Music - Released September 2, 2016 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
More than twelve years after its initial incursion into the music of Brahms, the Belcea Quartet now presents an eagerly awaited complete recording of his string quartets. A powerful style and a sense of musical architecture are the two qualities most often attributed to the Belcea, which is now one of the top international quartets. And those characteristics blossom to the full in Brahms. For the Piano Quintet, its members are joined by Till Fellner. This Austrian former student of Alfred Brendel is one of today’s most respected pianists, combining grace, rigour and musical intelligence. In September 2016 the Belcea Quartet will embark on a tour that will take it to the United States and most countries in Europe.
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Year - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released April 7, 2015 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released April 1, 2007 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Is violinist Julia Fischer in the same league as David Oistrakh in her recording of Brahms' Violin Concerto? Are Fischer and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott in the same league as Oistrakh and Mstislav Rostropovich in their recording of Brahms' Double Concerto? No: Oistrakh and Rostropovich are playing big, muscular, and heroic music while Fischer and Müller-Schott are playing intimate, sensuous, and lyrical music. Fischer's tone is lovely, her technique is impeccable, but best of all his interpretation of the Violin Concerto is sweet, smiling, and joy-filled. Müller-Schott's tone is warm, his technique is impressive, but best of all his interpretation of the Double Concerto with Fischer sounds like a love duet from an Othello written by a German. Together with the lush and enveloping accompaniment of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra Amsterdam led by Yakov Kreizberg, Fischer and Müller-Schott turn in performances that aren't in the same league as Oistrakh and Rostropovich -- they're in a wonderfully seductive league of their own. PentaTone's super audio digital sound is rich, full, deep, and just about real. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 11, 2021 | Channel Classics Records

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Classical - Released April 23, 2021 | PentaTone

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Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig continue their complete Brahms symphonies project with a recording of the composer’s Second Symphony in D Major, alongside his Academic Festival Overture. Although idyllic and pastoral at first sight, Brahms himself remarked that he had “never written anything so sad”. Blomstedt and the orchestra bring out all the different moods and colours of this exceptional work, while the Academic Festival Overture provides a jubilant, glorious conclusion. Blomstedt’s work as a conductor is inseparably linked to his religious and human ethos, and his interpretations combine great faithfulness to the score and analytical precision with a soulfulness that awakens the music to pulsating life. In the more than sixty years of his career, he has acquired the unrestricted respect of the musical world. © Pentatone
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Classical - Released September 25, 2020 | PentaTone

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Herbert Blomstedt, the honorary head of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to which he was musical director for six years, is still active at the ripe old age of 93. Recorded in 2019, this new interpretation of Brahms’ Symphonie no.1 was conceived by Blomstedt, a devout Christian, spontaneously in wake of current times. “Rarely - he writes on the title page of the first chapter to this new integral - have we had more need for such light than today, when the entire world risks losing its soul”. In fact, the great American conductor of Swedish origin has moulded this interpretation into a humanist perspective that brings Brahms closer to Schubert. The work is gentle and calm with a lyricism akin to a lied. The Gewandhaus Orchestra plays like an immense chamber ensemble, giving this work an atypical tone in which its more rebellious moments seem to be smoothed out.   From this perspective, Brahms sounds somewhat Beethovian, particularly in how the Andante sostenuto is treated as it takes on the form of great love song calling for the unity of all men with an expressionism that is not far off the Adagio of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This recording is a great moment of live music captured exquisitely by the excellent technical team at Pentatone. The tragic opening, one of the high points of Brahms’ symphonic oeuvre curiously takes on an allure of nobility and classicism as if to quell the tensions that Herbert Blomstedt dreads so much in this world. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released April 21, 2017 | BSO Classics

Hi-Res Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Chamber Music - Released February 19, 2021 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
It's hard to imagine how anything could have been improved upon with this Brahms recital from three of Harmonia Mundi's most sensitive and interesting artists. The programming alone is a work of art: the idea of pairing the viola versions of Brahms's two autumnal Op. 120 Clarinet Sonatas inspired by Meiningen Orchestra clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, with three further softly intimate works of his showcasing the viola's similarities with the human voice – viola and piano arrangements of Nachtigall from the six Op. 97 Songs (extra resonant, when Brahms described Mühlfeld as the nightingale of the orchestra) and the famous Op. 49 Wiegenlied, followed by the Op. 91 Zwei Gesänge for Voice, Viola and Piano. Then there's the instruments, because for Tamestit and Tiberghien these are just as important to the music's alchemy as the abilities of the performers, and their quest to find the perfect match for the penetrating, multi-shaded tones of Tamestit's Stradivarius viola eventually led them to an 1899 Bechstein piano. The result was two instruments capable of a range of colours and roundness of sound across all registers and through even the most virtuosic of passages; and that's precisely what you hear across the resultant lyrically tender, natural-feeling readings, because beyond the hand in glove chamber partnering you're hearing, their respective tones are both alive with colouristic complexities and verily glowing. Then, beyond being simply delicious, the vocal quality Tamestit draws out from the famous Wiegenlied melody serves as the perfect overture to the programme's Zwei Gesänge – shaped icing on the cake – yet another perfect combination, Tamestit's lines lovingly encircling and dovetailing with Goerne's own richly warm, gentle baritone, the polished Teldex Studio engineering casting them on satisfyingly equal footings with each other, with the piano just slightly behind. In short, absolutely gorgeous. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released April 21, 2017 | PentaTone

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Classical - Released April 3, 2020 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet
The second album in Lars Vogt’s Johannes Brahms concerto series with the Royal Northern Sinfonia includes Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto combined with a solo piano work, Handel Variations Op. 24, which was dedicated to Clara Schumann by the composer. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 is a romantic 4-movement concerto written two decades after its predecessor and one of the cornerstones in the concerto repertoire. This remarkable opus with a great number of beautiful solo passages and with a duration of over 45 minutes has been intrepreted by numerous pianists since its premiere in 1881. In this album, Vogt performs the concerto conducting from the keyboard. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel Op. 24 for solo piano were written by the young composer in his late 20s. This work, which includes some technically demanding passages for the pianists, reveals Brahms’ profound interest in the work of the great masters of the Baroque era which served as a source of inspiration in the composer’s creative work. This set of 25 variations and a fugue shows Brahms as a great successor to the tradition of piano variations exemplified by Mozart and Beethoven. ©: Ondine
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Classical - Released August 7, 2020 | Orfeo

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Classical - Released September 28, 2010 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklets Distinctions Exceptional Sound Recording - Hi-Res Audio
Marek Janowski leads Rundfunkchor and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin in a solid performance of Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem on this Pentatone hybrid SACD. He doesn't bring particularly distinctive new insights to the piece, but just about everything is absolutely in place, and that is an achievement in a work with the emotional range and difficulty of this one. The opening is appropriately hushed and the second movement is as frighteningly thunderous as it should be. "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" is a highlight, with an urgency that blossoms into an outpouring of ecstatic fervor as it surges toward its celestial climax. Both chorus and orchestra perform at the highest level of professionalism, singing, and playing with discipline, passion, and a warmly enveloping tone. Soprano Camilla Tilling does not have a large voice, but it is focused and intense, and she can soar when the music calls for it. The weak link is baritone Detlef Roth; his singing is insightful but his voice lacks the heroic timbre the music requires, and he has a wobbly top and shaky bottom. The forces are beautifully balanced and the music's extreme dynamic range is well captured. This fine performance may be unlikely to join the ranks of the most sublime recordings of the work, but its virtues make it one that would be a fine introduction to this choral masterpiece. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet
Lars Vogt continues his series of concerto recordings with the Royal Northern Sinfonia with this new recording of Johannes Brahms’ (1833–1897) First Piano Concerto together with Four Ballades (Op. 10) for solo piano. As in previous albums, Lars Vogt conducts from the keyboard. The evolution of Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto took several steps. Originally conceived to become a Sonata for Two Pianos through orchestration it was developed into a four-movement "Symphony" until reaching into its final form of a "Piano Concerto" in three movements. During the process, which lasted from 1854 to 1856, some movements were also discarded and replaced by new material. This music is packed with much drama. No wonder since these years were particularly tumultuous in Brahms’ personal life: it was during this period when his great mentor Robert Schumann was sent into an asylum and ultimately died. It was also time when Brahms formed a close, lifelong friendship to Clara Schumann. Some of these feelings might well be echoed in the peaceful second movement, Adagio. Brahms’ Four Ballades, Op. 10 are works written in 1854 by a young composer barely in his 20s, yet these pieces are technically mature and profound in such a manner that they could even be compared to his final piano opuses. © Ondine
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Solo Piano - Released March 18, 2016 | La Dolce Volta

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Pianiste Maestro - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Classical - Released January 1, 2015 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Recordings of Brahms' two serenades from the late 1850s are sparse compared with those of the symphonies, perhaps because they're sometimes depicted as preparatory exercises for the mighty four. But they're really not that; they're light works that stand on their own, imbued with the spirit of Classicism, especially that of Haydn, and anyone who loves Brahms knows that his light works are no less profound than his weighty ones. The Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11, is in six movements; the Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16, in five, with each containing both a scherzo and a minuet. That little contrast is key to both the elegance of craft in these works and to the beauty of the readings here by conductor Riccardo Chailly, leading the venerable Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. Nowhere does Chailly try to push these works toward the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, or even the contemporaneous Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. Instead he takes them as they are, making them as transparent as possible, letting them breathe and giving them a relaxed, almost joyous quality that does not foreclose the discovery of small details. It may seem surprising to some that musicians as established as Chailly and the Gewandhaus players, who must have performed these works since their teen years, can manage such seemingly spontaneous readings, but there you have it. This is superior early Brahms. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 15, 2016 | Evidence

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio