Marin Alsop

Brahms: Symphony No. 2; Hungarian Dances

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Brahms: Symphony No. 2; Hungarian Dances Review

by James Leonard

While an improvement over her earlier recording of Brahms' First Symphony, American conductor Marin Alsop's new recording of Brahms' Second is still nothing to write home about. As before, the London Philharmonic plays superlatively, with strong strings, blended winds, and warm brass and, as before, Alsop conducts superbly, with a cogent ensemble, a full sound, and muscular rhythms. The problem, as before, is that Alsop's interpretations, while well-phrased and admirably shaped, are ultimately shallow. For all the clarity of her phrasing and the lucidity of her textures, Alsop's melodies have no nuance, her shapes have no substance, and her colors have no shadows. Her performances of eight of Brahms' Hungarian Dances orchestrated by Brahms and Dvorák are more successful because the music is more straightforward and plays to Alsop's strengths, and, once again, the LPO performs brilliantly. But there are dozens of better performances of Brahms' Second available -- try Furtwängler's or Walter's for starters, then try Abbado's or Davis' for later recordings. Speaking of recordings, Naxos' sound is dim, distant, and gray.

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