Kurt Masur / New York Philharmonic

Brahms: Complete Symphonies; Ein deutsches Requiem

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In most instances, a standard collection of Johannes Brahms' orchestral works will contain the four symphonies, the Tragic Overture, the Academic Festival Overture, and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn (also known as the Variations on Chorale St. Antoni). Where this box set by Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic differs and has the edge over the others is in the addition of the choral works, Schicksalslied and Ein Deutsches Requiem, which give added value for the budget price. (Collectors and audiophiles will note that this is not the 2011 SACD set Masur recorded with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, which was released by PentaTone and lacks the choral works.) In terms of the performances, Masur is straightforward in his choices of tempos, sectional balance, and phrasing, and even though his interpretations fall in line with conventional modern practices, that tried and true approach is what most listeners expect in Brahms. Considering the added features and the reliability of the playing, this is a terrific starter set for newcomers and a fine addition to any classical collection.

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