A thrilling Brahms cycle played by Germany's greatest orchestra under the baton of a legendary conductor. Do not confuse this set with Kurt Sanderling's later, less successful Brahms cycle on Capriccio. This is the one to get; it's just one more proof of the fact that there's no relationship between quality of performance and price. Even if you already have a decent selection of Brahms symphonies, you can afford to add this terrific set to your collection. --David Hurwitz
The answer is "Yes!" Throughout this set the orchestra played like a single instrument. I haven't heard an orchestra play so well rehearsed like that since the heady days of George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra of the 50's and 60's. This orchestra sounds like it has played together for a long time. Sanderling conducts within Brahms' markings and uses very traditional tempos - if there is such a thing! There is not an exaggerated tempo anywhere. Very traditional and very polished performances. The layers of Brahms' composing are well articulated. The analog stereo sound is OK. This set is not the result of someone who was a novice with Brahms. Sanderling displays great affinity for him. He articulates the ingenious compositions and understands the melancholy spin of the music.
This set gets an "A" and is well worth adding to your Brahms collection. I would order it today. It may not be available later. But it belongs among your best sets. This man's Brahms reminds me of the Carlo Maria Giulini of the 60's and 70's when inner poetic expression and outer control went together. My, what Brahms! Get them. You will not regret it. I understand also that he recorded a newer digital set with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra (not the Philharmonic) in 1992 on Hanssler that is also quite good. You may want to hear that one too and choose between them. Based on his '71 performances, these with the former E. Berlin orchestra are bound to be good as well.
It is hard to understand why Sanderling has too often been associated with orchestras that are not absolutely in the first rank. His conducting seems like a majestic synthesis of the best of all the others. The words that always come to me about these recordings are 'well thought out'. It is possible that, like Celibidache, Sanderling made his orchestras work too hard and with too many rehearsals, which unfortunately can be a kiss of death. But along with these, we have at least the Philharmonia with the marvelous Mitsuko Uchida, as well as the Bavarian Radio Symphony as delectations.
My only "criticism" is that here, with the Staatskapelle, one is sometimes aware that there are some weak passages with the winds and horns. That was likely unavoidable; this is not Berlin or Chicago. And the natural transparency and detail of these recordings make those bobbles seem even more glaring.
Sanderling passed away in 2011. He left a marvelous legacy. Not least of which are these Brahms traversals.