Wolfgang Sawallisch

Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Haydn Variations; Tragic Overture

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Wolfgang Sawallisch's recorded performances of Brahms orchestral music with the London Philharmonic from the early '90s were heartfelt and well-meaning but essentially mediocre. On this 2004 reissue of Brahms' Symphony No. 1, Haydn Variations, and Tragic Overture, Sawallisch's conducting is clear and correct but his interpretations are straightforward and ultimately superficial. His Symphony No. 1 is direct but not driven, with lax Andante sostenuto and a graceless Allegretto grazioso. His Haydn Variations are purposeful but not especially persuasive, with a passacaglia finale that lacks intensity. His Tragic Overture is coherent but not particularly convincing, with a coda that wants conviction. The London Philharmonic's playing is honest and sincere but a bit rough around the edges. EMI's early-'90s digital sound was a little deeper than its late-'80s digital sound, but still too hard and thick.

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