Gerard Schwarz / Seattle Symphony Orchestra

Brahms: The Complete Symphonies

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To demonstrate the strong relationship between Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony, one need only hold up their 2010 set of the symphonies of Johannes Brahms as the best evidence. Schwarz has conducted this orchestra since 1985, and the exceptional longevity and success of this association no doubt account for the fluidity and spontaneity of these performances. The symphonies are played in a straightforward manner, with repeats observed and tempos taken at conventional speeds, and the interpretations are mainstream in style. At a time when some conductors bend over backwards to find scholarly approaches to authentically play the standard 19th century repertoire (by making adjustments in orchestra seating, scaling down the number of performers, and applying period performance techniques), it's comforting to know that there are still others who are secure enough in their musicianship to trust their abilities and not fuss so much over historicity. Schwarz seems to revel in the full textures of a modern symphony orchestra, and the Seattle Symphony certainly provides everything he requires. These performances are full-blooded and passionate but also intellectually stimulating, and the expressions are so compelling and satisfying that one may be reminded of the finer recordings of the great European conductors of the 20th century, rather more than the offerings of the historically informed movement. The reproduction is meticulous and detailed, so every note is audible, but the burnished ensemble sound is the most rewarding aspect of these recordings.

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