Marin Alsop

Brahms: Symphony No. 4; Hungarian Dances Nos. 2 & 4-9

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Brahms: Symphony No. 4; Hungarian Dances Nos. 2 & 4-9 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Reviews of Marin Alsop's recordings of Brahms' symphonies for Naxos have been mixed, partly because of her variable tempos and occasionally lax handling of important features in the music, but also for the London Philharmonic Orchestra's routine playing and Naxos' dull sound quality, all factors that make some critics recommend past classics that are much clearer in details, more passionately played, and far better sounding. While Alsop's pacing of the Symphony No. 4 in E minor is fairly regular, she could have been more attentive to bringing out fine points in the score and playing up Brahms' vital syncopations; though her interpretation is by no means unclear or incoherent, it is a bit unfocused and too subdued. The LPO's playing is flat in tone and emotionally uninvolved, and there isn't much in its indifferent performance that listeners will find exciting. The reproduction, however, is the biggest problem of this recording, since everything is mixed down to a homogenous ensemble sound that only intermittently shows true instrumental colors or highlights sections, and the volume levels seem arbitrarily muted. The selected Hungarian Dances, in decent arrangements by Peter Breiner, are the more interesting tracks of this disc, if only because Alsop and the orchestra seem to be having fun, and the music feels airier and more colorful in the naturally resonant recording.

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