Jukka-Pekka Saraste / WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4; Academic Festival Overture; Tragic Overture

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Concluding their series of the orchestral music of Johannes Brahms on Profil, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln present the Symphony No. 4 in E minor, the Academic Festival Overture, and the Tragic Overture on this third volume, thus rounding out a standard set of the seven works that are usually packaged together. These are conventional interpretations in the style of many mid-20th century Brahms recordings, so they won't strike anyone as historically informed performances or revisionist in any way, though the playing is surprisingly light and agile, which are qualities seldom found in mainstream Brahms. Saraste takes pains to make the music transparent and crisply detailed, and he achieves the chief goal a period style performance without reducing the orchestra's size or using 19th century instruments or techniques. Instead, the full orchestra is rich in sonorities but not homogenously blended, and the modern instruments are distinctive in their timbres and carefully separated, at times giving the impression of a smaller, leaner ensemble. Collectors may seek out Saraste's previous discs, though the series seems readymade for a box set reissue, and all the performances are worthy additions to a classical library. Profil's sound is clear and cleanly engineered, with a depth and spaciousness similar to many audiophile recordings. Highly recommended.

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