Vladimir Jurowski / London Philharmonic Orchestra

Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

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It's intriguing to compare this recording of Brahms' first two symphonies by Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 2008 with recordings of the same works and the same orchestra by Wolfgang Sawallisch in the 1980s, Eugen Jochum in the 1970s, and Adrian Boult in the 1960s. Jurowski's tempos are generally much quicker, his textures much leaner, and his attacks much more incisive than any of the earlier recordings. The LPO's playing is every bit as fine as it was under Boult, and quite a bit more polished than it was under Sawallisch and Jochum. But one inevitable question remains: how are the interpretations? They are better than Sawallisch's stodgy and Jochum's doughy interpretations, but nowhere near as good as Boult's. There is no sense in Jurowski's interpretation that great matters are being discussed, and that the results are a matter of life and death, qualities Boult's interpretations possess in full measure. One instead gets the sense that Jurowski, who has made many strong and vital recordings before this, has little intrinsic interest in these pieces and has opted for updating them by streamlining them. Brahms' symphonies were not made to be updated, much less streamlined, and the attempt just leaves the music sounding lean and hungry. The live-in-concert sound is thin and somewhat insubstantial.

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