Bernard Haitink / Claudio Arrau / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Brahms: Complete Symphonies & Concertos

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Decca's seven-disc set Brahms: Complete Symphonies & Concertos is an enticing choice for listeners looking for a comprehensive and affordable way to build a library without sacrificing quality of performance. Despite its title, the set goes well beyond just symphonies and concertos by also including the Variations on a Theme of Haydn, the A major and D major Serenades, the two overtures, and 10 Hungarian Dances. The orchestral duties throughout are ably handled by Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Haitink's vision of Brahms focuses on subtetly of dynamics, simplicity and clarity of phrasing, and careful management of balance and pacing. Pianist Claudio Arrau's refined but powerful playing is an ideal match with Haitink; Henryk Szeryng performance of the Violin Concerto is lushly Romantic and sweeping without seeming contrived or overwrought. The only seeming mismatch to be found is cellist János Starker's playing in the Double Concerto. While technically beyond reproach, Starker's sound is rather thin and underpowered when juxtaposed with Szeryng and the RCO and his interpretation is less fluid and lyrical. The set is still a recommended choice. Decca's remastering of the 1970s and 1981 performances used in the set produces a clear, vivid soundscape.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83
1 19:15
2 9:20
3 12:07
4 10:04
Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Op. 56a
5 2:12
6 1:22
7 1:01
8 1:50
9 2:14
10 0:57
11 1:22
12 3:13
13 1:04
14 3:57

Track Listing - Disc 7

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
1 12:27
2 11:42
3 6:13
4 10:10
Hungarian Dances
5 3:21
6 3:35
7 2:53
8 4:37
9 2:46
10 4:06
11 2:10
12 3:34
13 2:22
14 1:55
blue highlight denotes track pick