Brahms: Complete Symphonies

Ádám Fischer / Danish National Chamber Orchestra

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Brahms: Complete Symphonies Review

by James Manheim

Conductor Ádám Fischer, or, as he is billed here, Adam Fischer, likes to record complete symphonic cycles, often with an overarching idea that subsumes a wealth of small details. He is not a conductor of the highly dramatic type, but his readings are both careful and original. For this set of Brahms' four symphonies with the Danish Chamber Orchestra, the overarching idea is the use of an unusually small ensemble. Brahms seemed to have favored a group with players numbering in the upper 40s, and Fischer's forces may be even a shade smaller than that here (no exact number is given). One result is to favor the rhythmic structures of the symphonies, with percussion lines emerging with unusual clarity. Hear how the percussion strokes at the beginning of the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, produce a momentum that lasts through the entire symphony and even perhaps beyond. Fischer brings out long lines, and his tempos are generally on the quick side. Sometimes this works well, with a driving energy punctuated by controlled blasts and an elegant slow movement. The Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98, perhaps loses needed breadth in Fischer's reading, especially in the finale. However, there is close attention to detail throughout, and lots to support the impression one may have that once one enters the complexities of Brahms, there is no getting out again. There is an X factor here from the newly musician-owned orchestra, which punches above its weight. Fischer has his fans, and they will be fully satisfied here. The thing is, even listeners completely unfamiliar with him will get a lot out of this cycle.

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