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Best recording of Brahms: The complete symphonies?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I am looking to buy this, either on bmgmusic or amazon's used and new section. What is the most crisp, hiss-free, and otherwise best-sounding cd?

I've seen Riccardo Muti, Sawallisch, Karajan, Jarvi, Weingartner, etc.

If Muti's is hiss free and crisp, i would like that one because bmg has it.

Edit: and how about Karl Bohms: Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 35-41. The recordings are from the 60's but remastered. Would there be hiss? What's the best cd to get for those symphonies?
post #2 of 22
We need to start a team Beethoven-avatar
post #3 of 22
If it's got to be bmg: look out for G√ľnter Wand with the NDR Orchestra Hamburg, a 1989 production. Wand was a great Brahms interpreter and the NDR was quite in good shape at that time.
Honestly, I would avoid Muti with Brahms. Heard him once live with some Brahms and Mendelssohn and it had nothing to do with both...
post #4 of 22
Wand and Szell are pretty much tied for send place of all performances I've heard, with Jochum on EMI (not DG) being #1. Of the 3, Wand easily has the best recording quality. But interpretively, neither he or Szell touch Jochum.
post #5 of 22
Originally Posted by Tyson
But interpretively, neither he [Wand] or Szell touch Jochum.
Really? In how far does Jochum stand out?

BTW: EMI just released a couple of old (1960s/70s) NDR-Hamburg recordings, Schmidt-Isserstedt conducting. Quite ineresting. Does also include all Brahms symphonies.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
don't old recordings have hiss? background hiss drives me crazy!
post #7 of 22
Jochum is much more intense and emotive with Brahms than anyone I've heard. His set of Symphonies on EMI are quite a bit better than anyone else I've heard. Of course I should state my preference for Brahms is a relative muscular and swift sound. No "gooey" brahms for me (ie Bruno Walter).

Wand is a digital recording, so not much hiss there. Jochum and Szell are analog recordings, so defnitely hiss there, but at a fairly low level.
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
What about Murray Perahia or Anne-Sophie Mutter? (for other recordings)
post #9 of 22
Both are generally excellent performers with very good, modern recordings.
post #10 of 22
Originally Posted by kelesh
don't old recordings have hiss? background hiss drives me crazy!
Of course there's indeed a certain amount of backgound hiss. But if it is an outstanding or at least interesting interpretation, I really don't mind (though I always would prefer great recordings in great quality...).

Indeed, a "gooey" brahms can be quite painful...
I found that I prefer my Brahms relatively "Germanic", up to the point of even sounding a bit harsh sometimes. Though when I hear a more melodious, lighter approach (like Chailly with the Concertgebouw in a more recent live performance), I'm always astounded that it also works. (Un-?)fortunately we will never know how Brahms himself would like his works to be performed nowadays...

With Perahia I found that you cannot really go wrong with anything he recorded. Anne-Sophie Mutter lately became something of the Wynton Marsalis of classical music for me... wasted talent. Be it her Beethoven or Brahms: I cannot really figure out what she is up to and I begin to doubt that she would be able to tell you. If you listen to different sections of one of her (later) recordings without knowing it's always her who's playing, you might as well get the impression that it's different violinists handling the piece. For me, ASM is the prototype of an extremely gifted player doing certain things to the music just because the technical abilities are there but without a proper justification within the musical context. A violinist from the extreme opposite side of the spectrum would (IMO) be Thomas Zehetmair. If you ever here something like showing off from him he probably is under heavy drugs. Just my opinion. I'm well aware that ASM has many admirers out there - she just isn't my cup of tea.
post #11 of 22
I enjoy the Bernstein/Vienna Philharmonic set of 4 Brahms Symphonies on DGG.

post #12 of 22
Originally Posted by Wilson
I enjoy the Bernstein/Vienna Philharmonic set of 4 Brahms Symphonies on DGG.
I bought that when it first came out. It was like no other! A reviewer at the time made reference to "Bernstein's bathetic Brahms as an a sequel to his maudlin Mahler." Donated the set to the Music Library at UT.

I've heard many of the performances cited thus far, and I don't have much to add. Two Brahms sets that I find interesting are Mackerras/Telarc and the Solti/London.

I bought the Jochum/EMI on a recommendation Tyson made some months back. I agree with his "intense and emotive" to describe the performance. I also have the Walter/CBS, which I'd be more apt to regard as "affectionate" than "gooey."

Personally, I think this thread comes a cropper with the word "Best" in its title. Anyone who really cares about Brahms has a favorite interpretation. I'm struck by how differently we hear and respond to the various approaches.

Has anyone heard the Sawallisch? I just got his Schumann symphonies, and I liked the performance. Be curious to know what he does with Brahms.


post #13 of 22
Sorry about the wallet guys.......new remastered Bernstein/DG/VPO just released at reduced price:

Unfortunately it is packaged with violin concertos which increases price and may not be wanted by many buyers. I have the older Bernstein/Sony set and may have to get the newest Bernstein/DG.

Jochum/EMI is essential for 1,2,3 then get Kleiber/DG Originals for 4 and you have an excellent complete Brahms set at mid price.

Also must mention that Klemperer/EMI Sym 1 is my reference for that work, tympani strikes in opening passage are a revelation.
post #14 of 22
OK, now that we've opened the thread up to analog recordings with low hiss, I'm in!

The complete set of Szell/Cleveland (Columbia=Sony) is very fine on the taut side as mentioned above.

The Klemperer (Angel=EMI) set is taut and muscular without being very fast--essential for any collection.

The Solti/Chicago (London) is very expansive with big brass and woodwinds. My current top choice as a sonic experience.

I'd put all versions of Karajan more toward the gooey side than Walter with the exception of the old, mono tulip DG set. (with quite low hiss, actually).

A lot of folks don't like Abbado, but I think his Brahms is fine. There is (used to be?) a budget set on DG featuring different orchestras.
post #15 of 22
Two nice sets not mentioned are:

Bohm, VPO (DG)
Sanderling, Staatskapelle Dresden (Eurodisc)

I'm also fond of the Klemperer and Walter sets.
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