BaL 13.04.24 - Brahms: Symphony 3

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  • Pulcinella
    Host
    • Feb 2014
    • 10097

    BaL 13.04.24 - Brahms: Symphony 3

    1500
    Building a Library

    Nigel Simeone chooses his favourite version of Brahms' 3rd Symphony in F major, Op. 90.

    The work was written in the summer of 1883 at Wiesbaden, nearly six years after he completed his Symphony No. 2. In the meantime, Brahms had written some of his greatest works, including the Violin Concerto, two overtures (Tragic Overture and Academic Festival Overture), and Piano Concerto No. 2. The first movement begins with a musical theme that spells the notes F-A♭-F which is thought to represent Brahms' personal motto, frei aber froh (free but happy). He had first developed this motto many years earlier in response to Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, who himself had already adopted a personal motto F-A-E, frei aber einsam (free but lonely). The influential music critic Eduard Hanslick said, "Many music lovers will prefer the titanic force of the First Symphony; others, the untroubled charm of the Second, but the Third strikes me as being artistically the most nearly perfect."


    Another appearance by Nigel/makropulos!


    Listings in some form or other to follow.

    PS

    EEK!
    399 entries in Presto listings here:



    150 on CD (might be duplications if in box sets):



    14 on SACD:



    9 as Presto CDs:



    323 as downloads:



    13 as Super Hi-res downloads:



    30 as Award winners (I have found in the past that this Presto flag is not necessarily for the piece in question; it might be for the coupling etc):



    Feedback welcome as to how useful this breakdown is or any suggestions on how to compile anything sensible.

    Maybe, as suggested in the 'Where do we go from here?' thread, we start our own list of favourites.
    We could perhaps experiment with a listing (with member's name associated?).
    I think I'd be able to achieve that by copy/paste from contributions.
    Last edited by Pulcinella; 22-03-24, 12:49.
  • Pulcinella
    Host
    • Feb 2014
    • 10097

    #2
    Holding post to start compiling a list of recommendations etc in.

    First things first (for Alison):

    The BBC MM recording is of a performance on 12 June 2008 in the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda.
    Last edited by Pulcinella; 22-03-24, 15:26.

    Comment

    • Petrushka
      Full Member
      • Nov 2010
      • 11993

      #3
      The usual narrative regarding the Brahms 3 is that it's a difficult work to bring off, full of pitfalls for the conductor, with only Bruno Walter/Columbia SO and Abbado/BPO successfully negotiating the traps and being the recommended recordings.

      Can someone explain what the pitfalls are and why so few conductors get it right?
      "The sound is the handwriting of the conductor" - Bernard Haitink

      Comment

      • vinteuil
        Full Member
        • Nov 2010
        • 12372

        #4
        .
        ... the first one that made me appreciate / enjoy this work was Norrington / London Classical Players


        since then I have also come to enjoy Mackerras with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra


        Manze


        and Venzago, Walter &c

        ...

        Comment

        • Pulcinella
          Host
          • Feb 2014
          • 10097

          #5
          Originally posted by Petrushka View Post
          The usual narrative regarding the Brahms 3 is that it's a difficult work to bring off, full of pitfalls for the conductor, with only Bruno Walter/Columbia SO and Abbado/BPO successfully negotiating the traps and being the recommended recordings.

          Can someone explain what the pitfalls are and why so few conductors get it right?
          I've just started to read Tovey's analysis, and in the first paragraph he says:

          It is also technically by far the most difficult [of the four symphonies], the difficulties being mainly matters of rhythm, phrasing, and tone.

          Comment

          • Ein Heldenleben
            Full Member
            • Apr 2014
            • 6027

            #6
            Originally posted by Petrushka View Post
            The usual narrative regarding the Brahms 3 is that it's a difficult work to bring off, full of pitfalls for the conductor, with only Bruno Walter/Columbia SO and Abbado/BPO successfully negotiating the traps and being the recommended recordings.

            Can someone explain what the pitfalls are and why so few conductors get it right?
            Well the opening movement is in 6/4 so what do you beat ? Can your hear 6 beats in the opening phrase? **Blessed if I can .The accompanying strings are playing a typical Brahms cross rhythm just to confuse things. Then the constant time sig changes. Just playing it on the piano is tricky enough. I saw a Barenboim performance * with the BPO at the Sheldonian where he didn’t beat time at all - he just gestured at the beginning of a phrase* . Since the BPO can play this work blindfold it stuck me as eminently sensible,

            * oh yes the phrase lengths are very long and there has to be agreement over how they are going to be shaped ..doing that by stick waggling just isn’t gong to work .

            * might have been the Eminor tbh.

            ** reading a manual / fora the movement is supposed to have a two beat per bar feel. It’s a standard audition piece apparently.
            Last edited by Ein Heldenleben; 22-03-24, 15:23.

            Comment

            • Ein Heldenleben
              Full Member
              • Apr 2014
              • 6027

              #7
              Since I seem to have a telepathic relationship with Nigel (see Madama Butterfly thread ) I’m going for a long list of

              Karajan
              Walter
              Furtwangler
              Barenboim
              Abbado
              Jochum
              with wild cards
              Mackerras
              Alsop

              Comment

              • smittims
                Full Member
                • Aug 2022
                • 3174

                #8
                I have to say I think the oft-repeated story about 'pitfalls' is now out of date. The number of fine recordings in recent years shows surely that this is, relatively speaking, not a difficult work to conduct (I think the Fourth is much harder). The difficulty, of course, lies in giving an outstanding performance.

                I'd be very hard-pressed to find one recommendation from recent versions. As so often, my memory goes back to early hearings, in this case my fathers' light-blue Columbias of Weingartner, the only conductor to record the work who knew Brahms and received praise for his interpretation. The most outstanding performances I've heard are both on YouTube and probably won't be considered for BaL as they are rough off-air recordings, but goodness, what vitality!

                Stokowski and the Houston S,O in 1957, and Beecham (surpisingly, perhaps) with the Symphony of the Air, around the same time. Anyone tired of today's 'careful' renderings might like to give these an airing.

                As to tempi, I can't resist relaying an anecdote of Robert Craft, dating from 1954 when he was teaching the parts of Webern's works to the Hollywood players who recorded them with him. One of them was Los Angeles Philharmonic veteran froim the 1930s when Otto Klemperer had invited Arnold Schoenberg to conduct a concert. Schoenberg conducted the first movement in a slow nine-in-a-bar, insisting to the incredulous orchestra that he had seen Brahms do that in Vienna in the 1890s. What price Historically-Informed Performance ?

                Comment

                • gurnemanz
                  Full Member
                  • Nov 2010
                  • 7277

                  #9
                  I can remember that for a couple of decades when I had a less bloated collection of classical recordings and a low disposable income I was quite content with 2 LPs of East German origin with Kurt Sanderling and Dresden Staatskapelle.

                  Comment

                  • HighlandDougie
                    Full Member
                    • Nov 2010
                    • 2985

                    #10
                    Of recent versions, Herbert Blomstedt/Leipzig Gewandhaus is a wonderfully measured account (some might say slow but it just seems right to me), beautifully played by this most Germanic-sounding of orchestras and with an excellent Pentatone recording. I also much like Sanderling but prefer the later Berlin Symphony version.

                    Comment

                    • Pulcinella
                      Host
                      • Feb 2014
                      • 10097

                      #11
                      I wonder if there'll be any discussion of the first movement exposition repeat.
                      In The Symphony, Michael Steinberg devotes two paragraphs to defending the need for it.
                      I'm not too sure that I follow all his arguments, so must dig out the score and see what's going on harmonically.

                      Comment

                      • makropulos
                        Full Member
                        • Nov 2010
                        • 1631

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Ein Heldenleben View Post
                        Since I seem to have a telepathic relationship with Nigel (see Madama Butterfly thread ) I’m going for a long list of

                        Karajan
                        Walter
                        Furtwangler
                        Barenboim
                        Abbado
                        Jochum
                        with wild cards
                        Mackerras
                        Alsop
                        Well... on the telepathy front: I've listened to over a hundred of them in the last few months (I was asked to do this back in September so I've had plenty of time to do prepare), and I've just finished my final shortlist today (though not yet sent it in), I'm happy to say that three of those on your list are in my final 10 – which is pretty good going given the breadth of choices. My goodness, there are some shockers out there (which I won't be illustrating), some truly dull ones too (ditto) – but that just underlines the point that it is still a difficult symphony to bring off well – not so much from a technical point of view but a purely musical one. I'm happy with my shortlist, but I'm sure there will be plenty of "what about so-and-so" – because practically everyone's done it, often multiple times.

                        Comment

                        • makropulos
                          Full Member
                          • Nov 2010
                          • 1631

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Pulcinella View Post
                          I wonder if there'll be any discussion of the first movement exposition repeat.
                          In The Symphony, Michael Steinberg devotes two paragraphs to defending the need for it.
                          I'm not too sure that I follow all his arguments, so must dig out the score and see what's going on harmonically.
                          Yes, there will. That much I can say For me, the issue is not so much a harmonic argument as one about structure and formal balance.

                          Comment

                          • Ein Heldenleben
                            Full Member
                            • Apr 2014
                            • 6027

                            #14
                            Originally posted by makropulos View Post

                            Well... on the telepathy front: I've listened to over a hundred of them in the last few months (I was asked to do this back in September so I've had plenty of time to do prepare), and I've just finished my final shortlist today (though not yet sent it in), I'm happy to say that three of those on your list are in my final 10 – which is pretty good going given the breadth of choices. My goodness, there are some shockers out there (which I won't be illustrating), some truly dull ones too (ditto) – but that just underlines the point that it is still a difficult symphony to bring off well – not so much from a technical point of view but a purely musical one. I'm happy with my shortlist, but I'm sure there will be plenty of "what about so-and-so" – because practically everyone's done it, often multiple times.
                            So that’s 16 a month for 6 months or one very other day, Thats extraordinary.

                            Comment

                            • makropulos
                              Full Member
                              • Nov 2010
                              • 1631

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Ein Heldenleben View Post

                              So that’s 16 a month for 6 months or one very other day, Thats extraordinary.
                              To my great relief, It’s been genuinely exhilarating - and I tended to do the sifting and weeding out in batches - days and days of Brahms over Christmas, for instance - and I will say that it’s just as well I’m retired from full time work!

                              Comment

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