Here's a Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, of the revisionist sort. Swedish conductor Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, of which he is music director, have embarked on an "Opening Doors" series aimed at bringing new audiences to Romantic repertory. The live performances are informal (the musicians have been known to wear sandals), and the recordings are brisk, direct, modest in size, and sometimes oriented toward historical performance techniques. The three dozen-plus players of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra are probably equivalent in number to those who played the work at its Karlsruhe premiere in 1876, although even in Brahms' day the trend was toward larger forces. The unconventional quality lies not in the size of the orchestra but in the phrasing and the overall mood, which largely strips out the warmth and sentiment in favor of a clarity of texture that worked quite well in Dausgaard's recordings of Schumann's problematical symphonies. Here, with the entire symphony coming in at under 45 minutes (up to an hour is common), you may miss some cherished moments, and the thoroughgoing reduction in vibrato tends to keep a sharp edge on things. On the other hand, Dausgaard will probably show you a few details in the counterpoint that you had missed, and the run-up to the famed theme in the symphony's finale is very nicely controlled. In the Liebeslieder Waltzes and Hungarian dances that round out the album, there is really no need for Dausgaard's minimal approach, but in the Symphony No. 1 it's worth considering, even if it's not a great choice for a first exposure to the work. BIS' Super Audio sound is a major plus.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68|