Brahms' Third Symphony

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CharmNewton
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Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by CharmNewton » Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:26 pm

While listening to Colin Davis' recording of this work for RCA (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra), I kept getting the feeling that his tempi sounded slow, although I was impressed with the way he molded the work together. Looking at the disc's jacket, the tempi seemed straightforward.

I Allegro con brio
II Andante
III Poco allegretto
IV Allegro

The opening tempo of a movement doesn't always tell the story, so I thought I'd spend more time with the work. Von Karajan's last recording (included in the DG Brahms collection) was straighter and more direct, but the sound was a bit thin for a recording from 1988. I was intrigued enough to pull out a score (Dover).

I couldn't find Reiner's Chicago recording at that moment, but I saw Muti's (Philadelphia Orchestra) and as he has a reputation for scrupulously following a composer's directions, I thought he's make a good listen.

The score is interesting. Except for two instances where Brahms indicated Un poco sostenuto or an occasional ritard, the tempo markings that open the movement are it (he does change meter from 6/4 to 9/4 in the first movement). There are many changes in dynamics--seemingly every bar. The Finale strikes me as Brahms paying homage to Bruckner--heavy brass pitted against florid passagework and tremolos in the strings--while being tighter and more direct. This symphony looks extremely difficult to play, with phrases often starting off the beat and the ending of a phrase blending into the beginning of the next. I suspect this work is used as an audition piece.

Muti actually changes tempi within movements quite a bit and it doesn't sound like he had total command of his conception--some of the ensemble sounds a bit spotty. It could be that these changes in tempi require the conductor to give good cues and that doesn't seem to be the case here.

I located the Reiner and it is an ear opener. I and IV are on the fast side, II sounds slower after the tempo of the opening movement, but is well shaped and III moves nicely. Reiner's allows changes of tempi, but they aren't as varied as the others. The orchestral playing is magnificent and I suspect the firmer tempi aid orchestral execution. The strings sound very beautiful and stand out among these four orchestras. You can really hear when they play divided parts within a section. The same holds true for the tonal beauty of the winds in solo passages and ensembles. Reiner doesn't let the brass dominate in the Finale, but they are distinctly heard.

I've been in a Brahms mood of late, so I'll be pulling other versions out as well.

How do others feel about the Third and what are your favorite versions? If you like the Brahms symphonies, where does the Third fit alongside the others?

John

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:15 pm

The third is my favorite Brahms symphony, and I find it's the hardest to pull off. It's the polar opposite of the victory symphony, and it ends softly. I find it to be one of the 'acid test' pieces when measuring a conductor's mettle in Brahms. I also greatly enjoyed the Reiner/CSO 3rd you mentioned, it's one of my favorite performances of the work. Some others I enjoy include:

Kempe/BPO - Testament
Walter/NYPO - Sony
Dorati/LSO - MLP
Szell/CO - Sony
Giulini/PO - EMI
Kubelik/VPO - Decca
Sawallisch/VS - Philips
Beinum/RCO - Philips
Jochum/BPO - DGG
Leinsdorf/PO - EMI
Ansermet/OSR - Decca

The Leinsdorf and Sawallisch really surprised me. Very strong renderings.
Last edited by ContrapunctusIX on Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Wallingford
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Wallingford » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:39 pm

To my ears, Koussevitzky was the only one to get it 100% right.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Barry
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Barry » Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:35 pm

CharmNewton wrote: Muti actually changes tempi within movements quite a bit and it doesn't sound like he had total command of his conception--some of the ensemble sounds a bit spotty. It could be that these changes in tempi require the conductor to give good cues and that doesn't seem to be the case here.
If I remember correctly, the Brahms symphonies were essentially new to Muti when he made these recordings. He didn't conduct them his first few seasons in Philly (I think he thought the Orchestra's fans needed a break from them after all of those Ormandy years). So your comments don't strike me as that surprising. That set isn't one I'd recommend when there are so many great ones on the market.

My two favorite recordings of the third are Walter/NYP and Giulini/VPO, which are about as different as night and day.
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val
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by val » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:44 am

The 3rd Symphony has a perfect balance, with an atmosphere more narrative than dramatic, like a Nordic Ballad.

The best version I ever heard was a mono version, recorded in the 50ths, by Karl Böhm and the VPO.

Giulini with the Philharmonia and Bruno Walter with the Columbia Orchestra are also remarkable, but perhaps too dramatic. Cantelli with the Philharmonia would be my other choice.

Heck148
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:29 am

CharmNewton wrote: This symphony looks extremely difficult to play, with phrases often starting off the beat and the ending of a phrase blending into the beginning of the next. I suspect this work is used as an audition piece.
yes, Brahms #3 is very difficult, the toughest of the Brahms symphonies - common audition piece for conductors, or it should be. the first, and last mvts are especially tough...the first movement is 6/4 time, two beats to a bar, but it needs the subdivision to be constantly present. lots of difficult, off-the-beat entrances of eight-note figures which require great precision, yet the big "two-beats per bar" feeling must prevail..
last movement is difficult too -getting the right dynamic, dramatic build-ups, releases is tough, and few conductor/orchestras really bring it off..
I located the Reiner and it is an ear opener. I and IV are on the fast side, II sounds slower after the tempo of the opening movement, but is well shaped and III moves nicely. Reiner's allows changes of tempi, but they aren't as varied as the others. The orchestral playing is magnificent and I suspect the firmer tempi aid orchestral execution. The strings sound very beautiful and stand out among these four orchestras. You can really hear when they play divided parts within a section. The same holds true for the tonal beauty of the winds in solo passages and ensembles.
Reiner is definitely one of the best. Szell is good too, so is Solti...the Walter/NYPO was good, IIRC but I've not heard it in years..

Jack Kelso
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:22 am

I have over a dozen recordings of all the Brahms symphonies, and for the Third Reiner, Walter and Szell are among my favs of the older ones.

Recently, I invested in Marin Alsop/London Phil. complete Brahms set on Naxos. She takes all the repeats (the Fourth doesn't have one) and I like very much her approach, not too much rubato and a strong tympani in the First. Her Third is well-balanced, poetic and stately....lasts 36:38 minutes.

The only "big-name" conductor I've heard who got the Third COMPLETELY wrong (IMO) was Bernstein; he dragged the first movement to death---over 15 minutes w/repeat.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

josé echenique
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by josé echenique » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:54 am

I am a big fan of Claudio Abbado´s version with the Berlin Philharmonic, it´s truly inspired and the playing is in a class of it´s own. The Second and Third symphonies were the best offerings in his cycle, but the Third is special and most definitely one of the finest ever.
Harnoncourt also goes far with the same orchestra, it´s a very elegant and patrician reading.
Other favourites: the ancient but wildly exciting 1932 Mengelberg with the Concertgebouw, Guido Cantelli is warmly Mediterranean with the vintage Philharmonia, Szell with Cleveland and the ever noble Bruno Walter with the Columbia Symphony.
Last but not least, I really like Paavo Berglund smaller scaled rendering with the excellent Chamber Orchestra of Europe, it´s fresh, illuminating and truly magisterial.

CharmNewton
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by CharmNewton » Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:22 am

Barry wrote:
If I remember correctly, the Brahms symphonies were essentially new to Muti when he made these recordings. He didn't conduct them his first few seasons in Philly (I think he thought the Orchestra's fans needed a break from them after all of those Ormandy years). So your comments don't strike me as that surprising. That set isn't one I'd recommend when there are so many great ones on the market.
What surprised me about Muti is that his reading was less literal than I expected given what I've read of his adherence to the printed page. That is probably an overgeneralization on the part of the musical press.
Barry wrote: My two favorite recordings of the third are Walter/NYP and Giulini/VPO, which are about as different as night and day.
The Walter/NYP was the first recording I ever heard of this work. A British Sony CD re-issue (517187 2) improves on the sound of the original Columbia and Odyssey LPs. It reveals the presence expected in a recording made in late 1953.

John
Last edited by CharmNewton on Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

Barry
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Barry » Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:25 am

CharmNewton wrote:
Barry wrote:
If I remember correctly, the Brahms symphonies were essentially new to Muti when he made these recordings. He didn't conduct them his first few seasons in Philly (I think he thought the Orchestra's fans needed a break from them after all of those Ormandy years). So your comments don't strike me as that surprising. That set isn't one I'd recommend when there are so many great ones on the market.
What surprised me about Muti is that his reading was less literal than I expected given what I've read of his adherence to the printed page. That is probably an overgeneralization on the part of the musical press.
Muti conducted the Brahms 2nd the last time he came to Philly to lead the Philadelphia (a few years ago for a special pension-fund concert) and I had similar feelings to what you say about his third. There were some odd interpretive touches that I didn't expect from a conductor like Muti.
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maestrob
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by maestrob » Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:41 am

Brahms III is indeed a tough nut to crack: I studied it at Juilliard, and the first movement does keep pulling the conductor slightly off the beat. I learned it with two pulses to the 6/8 bar, no subdivision: that's up to the orchestra as long as the conductor gives a clear steady beat.

I first heard the piece played by Ormandy live, and later taped the radio transmission of the concert. That was my reference until Bruno Walter/NY, and then Solti/Chicago. Brahms only works if you maintain tempo discipline: I love Toscanini's version with the Philharmonia for that reason.

CharmNewton
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by CharmNewton » Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:01 pm

Heck148 wrote: Reiner is definitely one of the best. Szell is good too, so is Solti...the Walter/NYPO was good, IIRC but I've not heard it in years..
I plan to re-visit these and a few others.

It's been fun to pull out the score while listening. I feel a little closer not only to the composer, but also to the artists making the recordings, and I respect the effort even if the reading doesn't seem to hold together.

Toscanini's NBC Symphony recording from 1952 is an interesting one. With the exception of the Finale, his tempi are on the slow side, very much like Colin Davis. But Toscanini and the NBC Symphony produce sharper accents and clear phrasing. Toscanini also employs less tempo variation within movements and the performance makes for good listening.

John

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:09 pm

CharmNewton wrote:
Toscanini's NBC Symphony recording from 1952 is an interesting one. With the exception of the Finale, his tempi are on the slow side, very much like Colin Davis. But Toscanini and the NBC Symphony produce sharper accents and clear phrasing. Toscanini also employs less tempo variation within movements and the performance makes for good listening.

John
I'm not sure that you've heard it, but Toscanini's recording of the 3rd with the Philharmonia on Testament is a more successful reading, IMO. There's something rigid about the NBC recording which doesn't seem as much of a problem in the live Philharmonia performance.

Barry
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Barry » Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:17 pm

maestrob wrote: I first heard the piece played by Ormandy live, and later taped the radio transmission of the concert. That was my reference until Bruno Walter/NY, and then Solti/Chicago. Brahms only works if you maintain tempo discipline: I love Toscanini's version with the Philharmonia for that reason.
Ormandy's commercial recording of the third has one of the most thrilling opening movements on record. Unfortunately, the other three movements aren't quite that good.

He was a quite good Brahms conductor though. I like his recordings of the first and fourth symphonies very much.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

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Heck148
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 20, 2010 1:55 pm

CharmNewton wrote:
Toscanini's NBC Symphony recording from 1952 is an interesting one.....Toscanini and the NBC Symphony produce sharper accents and clear phrasing. Toscanini also employs less tempo variation within movements and the performance makes for good listening.
Yes, AT/NBC is another good one...

Heck148
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:06 pm

maestrob wrote:Brahms III is indeed a tough nut to crack...I learned it with two pulses to the 6/8 bar, no subdivision: that's up to the orchestra as long as the conductor gives a clear steady beat.
yes. 6/4 in 2 beats per bar...some real schleppers try to conduct the 6/4 in 3 [3/2 time]. this is awful since it puts an unwanted accent on the quarter note, thereby disrupting the whole opening phrase...real klutzy conducting, for sure.

the conductor has to keep the sub-division clear, or chaos results. Movements like this - in which the large beat group [2/bar] must prevail, yet the sub-division preserved, due to the intricacy of the writing, are always tough to bring off...if Brams#3/I degenerates into a lumpy, logy 6 beats per bar, it is a mess...

the finale of Prokofieff Sym #5 presents simlar challenges - it has to go in 2, overall, but the rhythmic intricacy requires that the sub-divided "4" be constantly apparent.

another tough spot in Brahms #3 is in the last movement - when the trombones intone the repeated notes [first heard in mvt II] - the third time there is a crerscendo into the dotted figure for full orchestra...some conductors make a really big crescendo [Walter/ColSO, Szell] which is good, but then they don't get the orchestra quiet again, which is needed to build the tension. if it stays loud, then the following passage does not provide the build-up to the climax that follows...it's tough to bring off whatever approach is taken...
one of the best I ever heard was a live performance with Skrowacewski/PhilaOrch, at Saratoga PAC...they really nailed it...

THEHORN
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by THEHORN » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:28 pm

Is that Bernstein Brahms 3rd the earlier Columbia recording with the NYPO or the later DG one with the VPO? Many critics find the DG set of the Brahms symphonies much too slow and self-indulgent, but I suppose theses works can take a more freewheeling approach.
I sort of like the DG set, but am not familiar with the earlier one, which I'm sure lacks the tonal bloom of the later one. The NYPO never sounded as warm or refined as the VPO in the recordings Bernstein made as music director in NY, and the brass sounded pretty coarse compared to the burnished glow of the Viennese brass.

Heck148
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:37 pm

THEHORN wrote:Is that Bernstein Brahms 3rd the earlier Columbia recording with the NYPO or the later DG one with the VPO? Many critics find the DG set of the Brahms symphonies much too slow and self-indulgent, but I suppose theses works can take a more freewheeling approach.
The NYPO sounds fine, overall on Lenny's earlier set - #2 is one of the best. 3 and 1 OK/good, 4 is not good, conductor and orchestra just not with it that day...
one of my favorite 2nds is the live from 1960 Reiner/NYPO version - really quite thriling - very brawny and strong...the orchestra seemed to keepthis approach in mind when Bernstein recorded it a couple of years later.

Wallingford
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Wallingford » Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:25 pm

Heck148 wrote:
maestrob wrote:Brahms III is indeed a tough nut to crack...I learned it with two pulses to the 6/8 bar, no subdivision: that's up to the orchestra as long as the conductor gives a clear steady beat.
yes. 6/4 in 2 beats per bar...some real schleppers try to conduct the 6/4 in 3 [3/2 time]. this is awful since it puts an unwanted accent on the quarter note, thereby disrupting the whole opening phrase...real klutzy conducting, for sure.

the conductor has to keep the sub-division clear, or chaos results. Movements like this - in which the large beat group [2/bar] must prevail, yet the sub-division preserved, due to the intricacy of the writing, are always tough to bring off...if Brams#3/I degenerates into a lumpy, logy 6 beats per bar, it is a mess...

the finale of Prokofieff Sym #5 presents simlar challenges - it has to go in 2, overall, but the rhythmic intricacy requires that the sub-divided "4" be constantly apparent.

another tough spot in Brahms #3 is in the last movement - when the trombones intone the repeated notes [first heard in mvt II] - the third time there is a crerscendo into the dotted figure for full orchestra...some conductors make a really big crescendo [Walter/ColSO, Szell] which is good, but then they don't get the orchestra quiet again, which is needed to build the tension. if it stays loud, then the following passage does not provide the build-up to the climax that follows...it's tough to bring off whatever approach is taken...
one of the best I ever heard was a live performance with Skrowacewski/PhilaOrch, at Saratoga PAC...they really nailed it...
Another classic example of all this is Ravel's Alborada del gracioso. In his Mitropolous biography Priest Of Music, writer Robert Trotter relates about this maestro, in his last season or so with the NYP, proposing a beat for the opening riff as one-measure-in-2, one-measure-in-3, to clarify it for the players (who by now wrapped him around their finger). When I studied this piece seriously as a highschool piano student (a task I had little business handling, but it sure was fun!), I always thought in 3 instead of 2 (which was a revelation to me when my teacher finally found me the sheet music).
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Heck148
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:05 pm

Wallingford wrote:Another classic example of all this is Ravel's Alborada del gracioso. In his Mitropolous biography Priest Of Music, writer Robert Trotter relates about this maestro, in his last season or so with the NYP, proposing a beat for the opening riff as one-measure-in-2, one-measure-in-3, to clarify it for the players (who by now wrapped him around their finger). When I studied this piece seriously as a highschool piano student (a task I had little business handling, but it sure was fun!), I always thought in 3 instead of 2 (which was a revelation to me when my teacher finally found me the sheet music).
Yes, Ravel plays with the 2 beats per bar v. 3 beats/bar constantly in this piece...I think in a good performance, the listener should often be able to hear it both ways....it's part of the rhythmic subtlety of the work..."America" by Bernstein openly flaunts it.
the 3rd mvt of Dvorak #7 is another good example...

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by rogch » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:24 am

Lorin Maazel made a splendid recording with the Berlin PO many years ago. I belive it is now only available as part of the "complete early Berlin recordings" boxed set.

For a modern recording, Paavo Berglund and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe are brilliant in all symphonies, including the third. I can't believe this set is so underrated and little talked about. This orchestra has made quite a name for themselves and most of their recordings are met with interest.
Roger Christensen

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Ted Quanrud
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Ted Quanrud » Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:31 pm

Back when I started collecting records (trilobites were still swimming in the ocean), the then-almost new Klemperer/Brahms symphony set, and especially the 3rd symphony, on EMI was highly recommended. Fast forward 50 years, and I still find it the version I turn to the most often out of about 20 recordings on the shelf. The usual Klemperer adjectives -- monumental, granitic, architectural -- apply, all to the work's benefit.

I am also fond of the Toscanini-Philharmonia, Furtwangler, Abbado-Berlin PO and Mackerras with its reduced orchestral forces. Avoid, however, the new Gardiner, which I find just plain perverse, although I am usually a great fan of Sir John.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by anton_jerez » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:18 pm

Yes, Brahms 3rd is probably the most difficult of his symphonies to get going. Can´t think of a "perfectly" conducted version right out of my head. But I do know that I think that nobody makes the 2nd and 4th movements better than Karajan (usually not one of my favorite conductors) in the recording he made with the Wiener Philharmoniker for Decca in the 60ies. A not too slow Andante with a wonderful lilt to it (marvelous wienesse woodwind...) and a redhot last movement that brims with passion. Unfortunately the first movement is taken a bit too slow, without enough accents for my taste. The Poco Allegretto is also taken at a too letargic pace - an all too common sin among conductors.

Heck148
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Heck148 » Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:10 pm

[quote="anton_jerez"]Yes, Brahms 3rd is probably the most difficult of his symphonies to get going. [quote]

Brahms #3 features wonderful writing for woodwinds - esp the splendid clarinet/bassoon duets, soli, etc - which are so prevalent in mvts I and II. This is great stuff to play...
naturally, I tend to favor recordings that feature the greatest woodwind sections - Chicago, Cleveland[Szell], New York[Walter]
To hear great players like Brody/Sharrow[Reiner/CSO], Marcellus/Goslee[Szell/CO] Coombs/Elliot[CSO], McGinnis/Polisi[Walter/NYPO] play these clarinet/bassoon parts is heaven on earth....
Brahms 3 provides great work for all woodwinds including first horn...

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:10 am

THEHORN wrote:Is that Bernstein Brahms 3rd the earlier Columbia recording with the NYPO or the later DG one with the VPO? Many critics find the DG set of the Brahms symphonies much too slow and self-indulgent, but I suppose theses works can take a more freewheeling approach.
I sort of like the DG set, but am not familiar with the earlier one, which I'm sure lacks the tonal bloom of the later one. The NYPO never sounded as warm or refined as the VPO in the recordings Bernstein made as music director in NY, and the brass sounded pretty coarse compared to the burnished glow of the Viennese brass.
I really don't remember. But Lenny's recording of other composers' symphonies with the Vienna Phil. indicates to me that he had not changed his approach very much.

Tschüß,
Jack
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stickles
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by stickles » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:13 am

Speaking of the 3rd symphony, is it the first of its kind that starts and ends on the same theme? I always wondered about that, since many of the new compositions I hear nowadays use this "full circle" technique.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by diegobueno » Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:04 pm

Haydn's Symphony no. 31, the Horn Signal, also returns to the theme of the first movement to close out the finale.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by dirkronk » Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:07 pm

Ted Quanrud wrote:Back when I started collecting records (trilobites were still swimming in the ocean),...
Wow, Ted, you're even older than I am. The Bronze Age had just started when I started collecting.

Dirk

anton_jerez
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by anton_jerez » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:00 pm

Heck 148 wrote: "Brahms 3 provides great work for all woodwinds including first horn..."

It sure does. Specially the andante. Brahms never wrote anything more beautiful for woodwind. This thread on Brahms 3rd made my return to my music archive and relisten about 20+ or so versions of the particular andante. Klemperer, Norrington, Schmidt-Isserstedt, Gardiner, Dorati, Walter.... And I still find the winner to be Karajan with the Wiener Philharmoniker to be the winner. Why? Wonderful Decca sound from the glory days in the 60ies with due prominence to the woodwind, "perfect" pacing by Karajan and performances by the first clarinettist and horn player that are hard to beat. For pacing, just listen to the way Karajan lets the main theme return at min 4.55. It sings, it glows warmly and it lilts like the lullaby it is meant to be like no other recorded version I´ve listened to. And the way the clarinetist, the hornist and the oboist take the last bars is pure magic (doesn´t these bars sound like taken out of Humperdinck´s Hansel und Gretel?).
It is also interesting to compare the timings different conductors take in this movement. Karajan takes 8.16. Harnoncourt the same. Gardiner 8.26. The fastest I´ve found is Weingartner with 7.26 (too fast and devoid of poetry for my taste, but probably the conductor closest to the Brahms tradition since he knew the composer personally). The slowest is Karl Böhm at 10.31 (really, really horrible. He makes the opening of the andante sound like a funeral marsch).
Regarding Ted´s harsch words on Gardiner´s recent version I can´t agree - at least not for the andante. Regarding the pacing, the prominence given to the woodwind (the beginning really sounds like a wind serenade...) and the "feel" Gardiner gives to the movement he is on a totally different legue from folks like Karl Böhm who in a really perverse way make something awful out of one of the most wondrous pieces of music ever written.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Trilogy » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:38 pm

I greatly enjoy Muti with the Philadelphia, and [of course :wink: 8) ] Karajan with the VPO.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and
combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and
especially in the art of words. If music has one advantage
over the other media through which a person can represent
the impressions of the soul, it owes this to its supreme
capacity to make each inner impulse audible without the
assistance of reason...Music presents at once the intensity
and the expression of feeling. It is the embodied and
intelligible essence of feeling, capable of being apprehended
by our senses. It permeates them like a dart, like a ray, like
a mist, like a spirit, and fills our soul."


- Franz Joseph Liszt

diegobueno
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by diegobueno » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:40 pm

One thing that tends to weigh down the tempo of the first movement can be found in the violas and cellos starting at the third measure. The cellos have a series of quarter notes while the violas play in between their beats with a syncopated

e q q q q q e|e q q q q q e| figure.

One can imagine Brahms sitting at his piano playing a steady eighth note tremolo in the left hand, but his attempt to translate this into the orchestra, with the cellos as his 4th and 5th fingers and the violas his index finger and thumb*, is extremely awkward, especially at faster tempos. Any conductor who wishes to maintain the sense of a tremolo between the violas and cellos is going to have to slow down the tempo. I've never heard it done satisfactorily this way, and it's probably not worth trying. The forward motion is more important



* granted, the actual notes he wrote wouldn't fit the pianist's hands this way

anton_jerez
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by anton_jerez » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:59 pm

Diego Bueno wrote: "The forward motion is more important"

True. The first movement needs real propulsion to work. Like the first movement of Schumann´s 3rd symphony wich clearly was the inspiration for the same movement in Brahms 3rd.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:08 pm

anton_jerez wrote:Like the first movement of Schumann´s 3rd symphony wich clearly was the inspiration for the same movement in Brahms 3rd.
While the main themes are similar, there's one major difference: the Brahms symphony is loaded with development, while the Schumann has no development at all.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Sat Sep 25, 2010 6:31 am

ContrapunctusIX wrote:
anton_jerez wrote:Like the first movement of Schumann´s 3rd symphony wich clearly was the inspiration for the same movement in Brahms 3rd.
While the main themes are similar, there's one major difference: the Brahms symphony is loaded with development, while the Schumann has no development at all.
Just not true, you don't know the music. While the main theme of Schumann's 3rd 1st mvt. does appear throughout, the development is very subtle and contains at least three new melodies, one of which is extremely broad. Please at least read a good book of musicology before making such sweeping statements. I recommend the critically-acclaimed book by late scholar John Daverio, "Herald of a New Poetic Age".

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Sat Sep 25, 2010 6:51 am

stickles wrote:Speaking of the 3rd symphony, is it the first of its kind that starts and ends on the same theme? I always wondered about that, since many of the new compositions I hear nowadays use this "full circle" technique.
Raff's Fifth Symphony ("Lenore") has probably the FIRST coda to let the finale just fade away, as in Brahms' Third. However, Raff does not bring back the voluptuous main theme of the first movement because it would not fit well into that solemn context.

The Schumann Second also ends with the motto-theme from the sostenuto assai (beginning) of the 1st mvt., a theme which is varied and stated in all four movements, culminating in the fiery coda of the finale....different from the Brahms. Tschaikowsky also got the cyclic-coda idea for his Fourth and Fifth symphonies from the Schumann Second.

But I think in this case, due to greater similarities, Brahms got his idea from Raff, whose symphony dates from 1872 and must have been very well known to him.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Sep 25, 2010 7:31 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:Please at least read a good book of musicology before making such sweeping statements. I recommend the critically-acclaimed book by late scholar John Daverio, "Herald of a New Poetic Age".

Tschüß,
Jack
But, Jack, you are constantly using Scolars and Musicologists to make "your" sweeping statements... :wink:
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Hut
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Hut » Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:22 pm

Cantelli/Philharmonia
Jansons/Oslo PO
Jochum/London Philharmonic

And flyin' solo under the radar but worth a looksee: Haitink/Boston Symphony

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by diegobueno » Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:44 am

Jack Kelso wrote: Just not true, you don't know the music. While the main theme of Schumann's 3rd 1st mvt. does appear throughout, the development is very subtle and contains at least three new melodies, one of which is extremely broad.
Tschüß,
Jack
But Jack, you contradict yourself. Any composer who spends his time introducing new melodies instead of developing the themes he already has is quite clearly open to the charge that his work has "no development at all". You're only supporting ContrapunctisIX's argument.

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Sep 26, 2010 12:31 pm

diegobueno wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote: Just not true, you don't know the music. While the main theme of Schumann's 3rd 1st mvt. does appear throughout, the development is very subtle and contains at least three new melodies, one of which is extremely broad.
Tschüß,
Jack
But Jack, you contradict yourself. Any composer who spends his time introducing new melodies instead of developing the themes he already has is quite clearly open to the charge that his work has "no development at all". You're only supporting ContrapunctisIX's argument.
Excuse me, but I meant to say that these "new melodies" are actually based on the chordal progressions of the main theme---and that makes them new in the developmental sense.

"Development" (Germ. Durchführung) can include harmonic, rhythmic, melodic variations, new themes based on harmonic outgrowths of the exposition themes, etc. Schumann himself admitted that the main theme was difficult to develop (just as in Mozart's 40th g-minor Symphony, 1st mvt.).

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by diegobueno » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:39 pm

I wouldn't dream of faulting Schumann for the treatment of his themes in the Rhenish. It's a splendid symphony, usually my favorite of the bunch (except when the 4th is)

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:12 pm

diegobueno wrote:I wouldn't dream of faulting Schumann for the treatment of his themes in the Rhenish. It's a splendid symphony, usually my favorite of the bunch (except when the 4th is)
Sorry about any misunderstanding. Schumann's developments are superb.

But now we should get back to the Brahms 3rd---after all it IS his thread! :)

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:31 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:But now we should get back to the Brahms 3rd---after all it IS his thread! :)
What a surprise, a Brahms Thread developing into a Schumann one... :lol: :lol: :lol:
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absinthe
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by absinthe » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:51 am

Jack Kelso wrote:
diegobueno wrote:I wouldn't dream of faulting Schumann for the treatment of his themes in the Rhenish. It's a splendid symphony, usually my favorite of the bunch (except when the 4th is)
Sorry about any misunderstanding. Schumann's developments are superb.

But now we should get back to the Brahms 3rd---after all it IS his thread! :)

Tschüß,
Jack
Awwww, I was enjoying Schumann's 3rd last night (something I doubt I'd be doing had I not started to visit this forum). So I'm glad you said "get back" to Brahms whom I find needs a step back usually.

If there seem technical or even musical weaknesses in Schumann (I haven't studied his work enough to form more of an opinion than plain liking it, so far), you have to remember that Brahms wrote his 3rd Symphony at an age 10 years older than the age to which Schumann lived, had written his 4 symphonies and died, so he (Brahms) had better be competent!

But yes, I might give Brahms 3 a spin if I can find a suitable performance.

THEHORN
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by THEHORN » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:42 am

At least nobody here has said "What a revolting development!".


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

dirkronk
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by dirkronk » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:17 am

THEHORN wrote:At least nobody here has said "What a revolting development!".


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Wow. I didn't know I wasn't the only one here old enough to remember William Bendix ("Life of Riley"...from '50s US television).

Dirk the Ancient

Jack Kelso
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Re: Brahms' Third Symphony

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Sep 29, 2010 4:28 am

Chalkperson wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:But now we should get back to the Brahms 3rd---after all it IS his thread! :)
What a surprise, a Brahms Thread developing into a Schumann one... :lol: :lol: :lol:
Another surprise---neither Chalkie nor I started it..... :lol: :lol:

I like the Karajan/Vienna Phil. better than Karajan's Berlin performances of Brahms. In fact, I even prefer Vienna to Berlin in just about anyone's symphonies!

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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