Douglas Bostock

Brahms: Serenades Nos. 1 & 2 [Germany]

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AllMusic Review by V. Vasan

Johannes Brahms was renowned for grand orchestral works with rich counterpoint. However, he also composed pieces like these, serenades for a chamber orchestra, as well. Written earlier in his career, they are not so well known. Unfortunately, this album does not quite succeed in putting these pieces on the musical map. The Allegro beginning of the First Serenade sounds rather polite at times, when it really needs more fire. The bubbling counterpoint that one expects of Brahms needs more energy and passion. The first Scherzo is not quite jocose, and perhaps the recording quality is at fault for taking the edge and necessary rawness off the sound. On occasion, the orchestra is a bit flat and out of tune, needing more vibrato. The Second Serenade is slightly better, as the Scherzo here is livelier, and in track 9, the evolving lines hint at the right direction in which the music should be going. Track 11 begins nicely and features a wall of sound, and we get a sense of the whole orchestra. The conclusion of the album is elegant and the music moves. It is not fair to entirely fault the orchestra, for the pieces themselves do not quite come off as chamber works, and yet they are not powerful enough to be a symphony. Maybe it is wise to remember that even the most prolific and talented of composers may have off-moments in their output.

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