Christoph Eschenbach / Houston Symphony Orchestra

Brahms : Symphonies Nos.3, 4; Alto Rhapsody; Tragic Overture

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Not until the mature age of 43 did Johannes Brahms finally complete his first symphony. Many works, particularly chamber pieces, were written with a symphonic ideal in mind and are thought to be preparatory to his final foray into the symphony. Once the First Symphony was completed and premiered, the remaining three came at an almost alarming rate, with the Third Symphony premiering only six years after the First and the Fourth and final symphony appearing only two years later. The result of all of the waiting, all of the preparation, and all of the endless self-doubt finally yielded four indispensible contributions to the symphonic literature. This Virgin Classics album features the Third and Fourth symphonies performed by the Houston Symphony under Christoph Eschenbach. These readings are youthful and vibrant and, like many Eschenbach recordings, focus on maintaining forward momentum without sacrificing nuance and attention to detail. The surprising quiet ending of the Third Symphony is handled quite gracefully, leaving listeners with a satisfied feeling. For its part, the Houston Symphony performs like a well-oiled machine only four years into Eschenbach's tenure as the orchestra's artistic director. Strings are warm and nimble and the winds blend nicely into the texture of the orchestra. The brass, on the other hand, are often allowed to become too forceful and aggressive, taking away from the more pleasant, darker sonorities produced by the rest of the ensemble.

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