Review by Celebidache2000 June 18, 2013 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
|Brahms four symphonies are my favorite symphonies. I identify with them deeply. I feel that they speak to me. I feel the composer strongly when I listen to them. These four symphonies have been the source of so much joy in my life. I return to them again and again.
I have lost count of the number of recordings of the four in my collection but certain cycles stand out in my mind as being really excellent. The redbook cycles by Kurt Sanderling and the Dresden Staatskappelle, Carlo Maria Guilini and the Vienna Philharmonic and Rudolph Kempe conducting the Berlin Philharmonic come to mind.
Yet, I have encountered no cycle finer than this (SACD) set with Zdenek Macal conducting the Czech Philharmonic.
I love the recorded sound. I've never heard these symphonies sound this gorgeous outside of a (live) concert hall. The sound engineers have achieved a truely convincing illusion of being inside the hall. Listening to the recordings, I feel enveloped in hall sound and ambience. It's like being there (without actually being there). I don't find this kind of realism very often in recordings.
I really appreciate and enjoy Macal's interpretation of these works.
Tempi seem spot on and closely observe Brahm's tempo markings without the kind of exaagerations, the arbitrary slowing down or speeding up that mar the performances of too many conductors (who mistakenly believe that they are putting their "stamp" on the music when in actuallity they are wrecking it).
Macal also gets the timbre of the music right. He allows its beauty, tone and texture to come through (something that's hard to do with an inappropriately small or chamber orchestra, as has now become the rage). Brahms symphonies marry classical structures with the orchestral colours and timbres of the romantic era (larger forces, use of vibrato). Too many interpretors fail to understand this.
These are very straightforward and unmanipulated readings (with regard to tempo and playing style) and by getting out of the music's way, Macal allows Brahms to speak truely and forcefully through his compositions.
I cannot overstate how greatly I appreciate how Macal has allowed me to hear the composer so fully. These recordings are a true delight.
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