Wednesday, 9 August 2017

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, August 2017)

BRAHMS Symphonies Nos.3 & 4
NDR Elbphilharmonie 
Thomas Hengelbrock (Conductor)
Sony Classical  88985405082  / ****1/2

Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis & Jeremy Denk
Academy of St Martin In The Fields
Sony Classical  88985321792 / *****

Hamburg's iconic new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie, opened its doors in January after a seven year delay and costing 500 million Euros over the initial budget. The first recording made in the hall by its resident orchestra the NDR Elbphilharmonie features the Third and Fourth Symphonies of Johannes Brahms, Hamburg's most famous native composer. 

The Fourth is heard first, and includes a four-bar introduction before the actual 1st movement begins. This was Brahms' original idea before eventually dropping it, so the listener gets to hear a “new beginning”, thus symbolic of this new recording in a new venue. The recorded sound for both symphonies is excellent. 

The new recording of Brahms' Double Concerto in A minor from violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis also stands out for its warmth, and closeness of communication between the two soloists and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. 

The fillers are also very apt. First is the slow movement from Schumann's late Violin Concerto in D minor, essentially a violin and cello duo, with Benjamin Britten's edition of its closing. 

Next is the original 1854 version of Brahms' Piano Trio No.1 in B major Op.8, which is longer and substantially different from the more familiar revised version heard in concert halls today. The duo joined by American pianist Jeremy Denk makes the strongest possible case for this rarity. 

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