Symphony 2 / Rhapsody インポート
Another very fine performance in Claudio Abbado's Brahms cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic. The Second Symphony is the most sunny and lyrical of the four, and Abbado seems to have found a way to make the melodies sing while keeping the music moving along nicely. The coupling, a marvelous Alto Rhapsody, features Marjana Lipovsek, a terrific singer who doesn't seem to get her due on recordings. Altogether recommendable. --David Hurwitz
In this performance of the symphony the composition evolves at a natural pace with the textures based on firm foundations of string tone. The woodwind glow and the brass have both lustrous warmth and a cutting edge as required. The final bars of the finale bite as they should but so often don't. Beecham doubled the number of trumpets just for the final fanfares but that is simply not required here. Beecham's famous 'live' performance is a good instance of a very exciting last movement and thrilling conclusion but that is not balanced by the preparation of the previous movements. This Abbado reading is less overtly exciting in those ways but is much more of a whole experience. That is precisely why it makes such a compelling reading for repeat playing as happens with a disc.
The Alto Rhapsody shares much of the same musical development and ultimate success. Marjana Lipovsek has a brighter, less rounded tone than some favoured soloists but, judged in the context of this reading, her voice seems to be appropriate.
This is one of the most successful readings of these two works for quite a long time. it also has the benefit of excellent playing and recording both of which do Brahms proud. There can be no definitive 'best' recording of such core repertoire bearing in mind the range and depth of distinguished recorded alternatives but it would be fair to describe Abbado's set with the BPO as being one of the best and certainly an outstanding set for its recorded generation.
I would therefore suggest that it deserves very serious consideration either as a complete set or, as here, single discs.
The best Brahms Second? I need to hear a lot more. At the moment, I'm happy with Abbado, but Jochum (1976, EMI) takes the first movement almost 2 minutes faster. The tempo indication says "non troppo," and arguably he violated that, but his is an interpretation, in these first two difficult (to me) movements with great forward impetus -- and pretty good late analogue sound. Jochum is one of these conductors who can make you believe that what he's doing is right!
Lipovsek had a short-lived fling at recording, although given her sharp tone, Slavic shrillness on top, and absence of interesting ideas, I don't quite see why she achieved any prominence. Here in the Alto Rhapsody she is cautious and underpowered, which isn't competitive in a work that has seen glorious performances from Ferrier, Ludwig, and Baker.
P.S. 2012 - At amazon you take your lumps, for the most part, because you don't award enough stars to please the crowd, but on relistening to this Brahms Second, I feel that I lived up to my obligation to describe a performance with some objectivity.