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SG 702
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SG 702

Brahms: Symphony No. 1

The Classical Shop
release date: October 2008

Originally recorded in 2008

Artists:

Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique


John Eliot Gardiner


The Monteverdi Choir



Venue:

Salle Pleyel, Paris


Royal Festival Hall, London



Producer:

Isabella de Sabata


Isabella de Sabata

(Executive)

Jonathan Manners

(Executive)

Engineer:

Mike Hatch


Hugh Walker

(Assistant)

Andrew Riches

(Assistant)

Record Label
SDG

Genre:

Choir


Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 75:08
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JOHANNES BRAHMS

(1833-1897)
1 

Begrabnisgesang, Op. 13 (1858)

6:14
   
 

FELIX MENDELSSOHN

(1809-1847)
2 

Mitten wir im Leben sind, Op. 23/3 (1830)

8:34
   
3 

Schicksalslied, Op. 54 (1871)

16:11
   
 

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 (1878)

44:09  
4 I Un poco sostenuto - Allegro 15:07
5 II Andante sostenuto 8:33
6 III Un poco allegretto e grazioso 4:18
7 IV Adagio - Più andante - Allegro non troppo, ma con brio 16:11
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 / Mendelssohn: Mitten wir im Leben sind – Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Gardiner

‘This is a mighty Brahms First which, like the programme it inhabits, is a thing sufficient unto itself… These are intensely dramatic performances, powerful and unmanicured. The gathering drama of the three choral pieces is channelled and unleashed in a towering account of the First Symphony’s opening movement.’

Gramophone, September 2008

‘This weekend at the Royal Festival Hall in London, John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique complete their Brahms project with the Third and Fourth Symphonies, performed within the context of choral works both by Brahms himself and by earlier composers whom he admired. This first disc brings together performances from the beginning of the cycle a year ago: recordings of the First Symphony, Schicksalslied and the rarely heard early work Begräbnisgesang, as well as Mendelssohn’s equally unusual Mitten wir im Leben sind, all taken from concerts in the Festival Hall and the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The mix works as well on disc as it did live; Gardiner’s period-instrument textures and no-nonsense tempos buoy up music that can too easily get bogged down… A good start to what promises to be a fascinating series.’

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 3 October 2008



This release is the first in the series and coincides with the second part of Gardiner’s project, which will be touring extensively in Europe during autumn 2008.

This exciting new recording combines the large-scale vigour, drama and passion of Brahms with the expert musicianship and authentic approach that has come to be expected of John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir and his superb Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

Unique to this recording is the way in which Brahms’ Symphony is set within its historical and vocal context. As Gardiner explains:

    "When we approach Brahms nowadays the temptation is to concentrate exclusively on his orchestral output - the overtures, concertos and symphonies - and replicate a safe ’meat-and-two-veg’ approach. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that a worthwhile approach would be to juxtapose his symphonies with vocal music - music which Brahms himself cherished (studied, edited and conducted) - and so to set them in a historical Brahms-specific context rather presenting an encyclopaedic survey of all his orchestral output".

For this project, Gardiner not only explores Brahms’ musical origins but he attempts to reveal the very sounds which inspired him. Such authenticity has been sought by using instruments favoured by the composer. Valveless natural horns, for instance, give exactly the right flavour to the haunting, valley-resounding alphorn theme in the finale of the First Symphony.

 

"Sir John Eliot Gardiner chooses a route to Brahms’s first symphony through the choral works Begräbnisgesang, Schicksalslied and Mendelssohn’s Mitten wir im Leben sind.  It’s a subtle and clever idea, preparing the listener for the symphony’s revelations.  Some of the orchestral tempi and texture will startle those who prefer more luxuriant accounts, but the ready woodwinds and edgy string sound give extra momentum to this reading, which - as always with Eliot Gardiner - is steeped in scholarly preparation." 

Stephen Pritchard

The Observer - 14 September 2008

"John Eliot Gardiner’s label was launched to release his complete live "pilgrimage" through the liturgical cantatas of JSB.  It has rapidly acquired a glowing reputation, thanks to projects such as the forthcoming survey of Brahms symphonies, taken live from concerts, which seeks to put the large-scale works in the context of less familiar Brahms choral music and earlier work that influenced him.  Mendelssohn is the "guest" composer here, with an a cappella Lutheran motet that takes the chorales of Bach and Renaissance composers as a starting point.  The rarities here are the Begräbnisgesang (Burial Song, 1858) and the Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny, 1871) which look forward and back to the Requiem, and underpin Brahm’s debt to long-standing choral traditions.  The singing of the Monteverdians is luminous."

Hugh Canning

The Sunday Times - 21 September 2008

"Conductor John Eliot Gardiner believes that Brahms’s Symphony No.1 (SDG) has strong links with his earlier choral works - he describes the symphonic writing as ’vocal’ - and here proves his point by prefacing a performance with three large-scale choral pieces.  Beautifully performed by the period-instrument Orchestre Révolutionnaire Et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir, it makes for a richly satisfying listen."
 

The Metro - 26 September 2008

                           Recording of the Month

…“This new Brahms symphony cycle has been launched auspiciously and, judged by this first release, seems likely to become an important and distinguished one as it unfolds. The juxtaposition with other, highly relevant music by Brahms and others adds a crucial additional dimension. I look forward keenly to the remaining instalments…”

John Quinn 
 

MusicWebInternational - 30 September 2008

"This weekend at the Royal Festival Hall in London, John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique complete their Brahms project with the Third and Fourth Symphonies, performed within the context of choral works both by Brahms himself and by earlier composers whom he admired. This first disc brings together performances from the beginning of the cycle a year ago: recordings of the First Symphony, Schicksalslied and the rarely heard early work Begrabnisgesang, as well as Mendelssohn’s equally unusual Mitten Wir im Leben, all taken from concerts in the Festival Hall and the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The mix works as well on disc as it did live; Gardiner’s period-instrument textures and no-nonsense tempos buoy up music that can too easily get bogged down. The disc is beautifully packaged, and the accompanying notes include an interesting exchange on Brahms between Gardiner and composer Hugh Wood. A good start to what promises to be a fascinating series."

 

The Guardian - 6 October 2008

"Gardiner’s Brahms demands fresh ears.  It is quicker than any other period interpretations, more alert to the layering of Brahm’s symphonic argument, more liberal with portamento and more obvious in its vibrato-free veneer.  If the result is a shade didactic, with Gardiner sometimes unable to elicit the very flexibility of phrasing and elasticity of tempo he talks about so eloquently in his programme essay, it is still enlightening.  His thesis, brilliantly executed by the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir, is that Brahms laid the foundations for his First Symphony on the choral music of his most cherised German forebears.  Whether that enriches the voicing of the symphony’s instrumental parts is open to question.  The CD’s value lies in its advocacy of the early choral works that led Brahms towards the Symphony - the Begräbnisgesang and Schicksalslied (with Mendelssohn’s Mitten wir im Leben sind thrown in for good measure), signalling an unmistakable debt to the Bach Chorale." 

**** [4 Stars]

The Financial Times - 1 November 2008

                                Performance *****      Sound *****
"As if restoring a painting by an old master to its former glory John Eliot Gardiner provocatively wipes away layers of fusty  performance practice to reveal the vitality and originality of Brahms’s First Symphony. The composer may have waited till he was well over 40 before completing  this masterpiece, but Gardiner’s interpretation, supported by the lean sonorities and feisty playing  of the ORR, removes any hint of middle-aged spread, focusing all its efforts on projecting the dynamism, ardour and intensity of the writing. 
Gardiner drives the opening paragraph of the first movement at a surprisingly urgent pace, the horns cutting through the foggy contrapuntal texture with almost Stravinskian savagery. Sir Charles Mackerras adopts a similar tactic in his Telarc recording with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but whereas Mackerras  relaxes his grip too much in the ensuing quieter section  Gardiner maintains a much greater sense of doom-laden expectancy highlighting the unsettling nature of Brahms’s asymmetric phrase structure and  driving us inexorably towards the propulsive Allegro.
Yet the performance is by no means all breathlessness and bluster. The Andante sostenuto is highly expressive with the strings using a touch of portamento to enhance the heartfelt lyricism of the melodic writing. Gardiner also brings a real sense of the dance to the ensuing movement, the descending woodwind patterns projected with wonderful charm and elegance, while the folk-like simplicity of the Finale’s great tune is far preferable to the portentous approach heard in too many other interpretations.       
Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, this first instalment in a complete Brahms cycle may not offer the technically immaculate playing of some rivals but outstrips most of them in its immediacy. Enhanced by equally powerful accounts of the rarely heard Begräbnisgesang and the Schicksalslied, this is one of the most stimulating Brahms releases to have appeared in recent years."


Erik Levi

BBC Music Magazine - 3 November 2008

"This is the kind of didactic programme that, once upon a time, you could have expected to hear on Radio3; it would also make good material for a lecture-recital.  Gardiner’s plan is to record the four symphonies and the German Requiem in the context of significant choral works by Brahms himself and by composers whom he admired.  Here, three fine pieces on death and mortality precede the pounding opening to the First Symphony.  The former are beautifully performed....Well worth hearing..."

 

Classic FM Magazine - December 2008

                      Performance *****     Sound ***


"Offers a striking, almost pungent clarity in the realization of the orchestral textures with their phrase articulation."
 

Audiophile Audition - 5 November 2008

"Though Brahms’s first symphony concludes with a life-affirming Beethovian theme, the first release of John Eliot’s cycle of recordings begins with the sombre brass and woodwind of the "Begräbnisgesang".  Sandwiched between this and the radiant "Schicksalslied " Mendelssohn’s "Mitten wir im leben sind" sounds thin.  The symphony itself is dynamic, astringent: admirably transparent in its textures and super-sweet in Peter Hanson’s violin solo at the close of the "Andante sostenuto".

AP

The Independent On Sunday - 9 November 2008

"... as the series has grown it has become my favorite of the Bach cycles. Over Harnoncourt’s, Koopman’s, and Suzuki’s, among the most recent series.All three of these are competitive and have particular virtues and fans who value them accordingly. But what Gardiner brings is an energy and joie de vive which in the main escapes the others..." -

Bob Neill

Postivefeedback.com

"...what especially delights this listener is the sense of freshness Gardiner brings to the task...  the conductor and his instrumentalists provide us with something quite apart from the usual sit-up-straight-and-listen-because-this-is-great-stuff performance. Call it suppleness, a lightness of touch, and most tellingly, an obvious affection for the music."

Mike Silverton

Stereo Times

"Every instrumental line is played with gripping conviction, and the strings swoop from note to note the way they did a century ago. The first movement introduction assaults the heavens, and the slow movement is almost sentimental but with backbone... the orchestral texture has Mr. Gardiner’s characteristically luminous transparency. You’d think you were listening to some pre-Furtwängler conductor in fabulous sound."

Lawson Taitte

Dallas Morning News



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