Johannes Brahms

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Brahms composed this work between 1855 and 1876. Otto Dessoff led a "tryout" first performance in Karlsruhe, Germany, on November 4, 1876. At Düsseldorf in 1854-1856 -- where he helped Clara Schumann with her seven children while terminally mad Robert, her husband, wasted away in an asylum -- the young Brahms undertook on two separate occasions to sketch a symphony. By the end of 1858, one set of sketches had been assimilated into the First Piano Concerto, that gargantuan "serious" piece with Baroque underpinnings, in the tradition of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge and "Hammerklavier" Sonata. Sketches for a C major Allegro movement, in sonata form and 6/8 time, were saved for subsequent expansion and development. When, in 1862, he showed the results to now-widowed Clara, she expressed admiration but also concern that it ended too abruptly. For the next 12 years, Brahms kept this music close at hand. Finally, in 1874, he willed himself to complete the First Symphony that friends and admirers (beginning with Schumann in 1853, shortly after their first meeting) had been urging him to compose.

    He polished the Allegro of 1855-1862, now in C minor, then wrote a solemn introduction hinting at themes already 12-20 years old. These included a recurring motto of three ascending semitones, repeated in the slow movement. Having created a horse to pull the cart, Brahms addressed the middle movements: one slow (Andante moderato, in E major, then C sharp minor), the other quasi-scherzoid (Un poco allegretto e grazioso, pleasant and graceful, in A flat, F minor, and finally B major), respectively in triple and duple meters. Certain kinds of performance can make the central movements sound out-of-place, which is not meant, however, to impugn their intrinsic quality. Both exemplify a master of musical art in his time, who had reached a rarefied synthesis of conflicting creative forces. Their substance and style bespeak maturity no less than the monumental finale created to trump them. There an ominous preface in C minor leads to a C major Allegro non troppo ma con brio (not too quickly but spiritedly), which remains in 4/4 time until a climactic alla-breve acceleration into the coda.

    Brahms' decade of residence in Vienna had smoothed as well as ripened him: the middle movements could be called Schubertian, by way of Schumann. The finale, however, pays homage to the Germany's Baroque masters: Scheidt, Froberger, Buxtehude, Bach, and expatriated Handel. Simultaneously it honors the symphonic architectonics of Beethoven without regressing. Although he belonged to the generation that succeeded Chopin and Schumann, Brahms liberated music as much as they from the traditional Germanic tyrannies of bar-lines, four- and eight-bar phrasing, downbeat accents, and rhythmic squareness. While none of the music by his colleagues sounded richer (not even Bruckner's with augmented winds and brass), Brahms achieved his ends with astonishingly simple means -- the basic Beethoven orchestra, sans bass drum, cymbals, or piccolo -- plain to the point of abstemiousness on paper, but inimitably sonorous in performance.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
    2. Andante sostenuto
    3. Un poco allegretto e grazioso
    4. Finale. Adagio - Più andante - Allegro non troppo, ma con brio

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2020
    Solo Musica / Wiener Symphoniker
    WS 021
    2020
    Analekta
    AN 288778
    2020
    Decca
    4850219
    2019
    Claves
    CD 191617
    2018
    Various Artists
    Menuetto Classics
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 14002
    2018
    Sony Classical
    19075853112
    2018
    Eloquence
    2018
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2018
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4835251
    2018
    Linn Records
    CKD 601
    2018
    Warner Classics
    0190295633837
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 18048
    2018
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 18032
    2018
    CuGate Classics
    CGC 036
    2018
    Warner Classics
    2018
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    4798418
    2017
    Various Artists
    ICA Classics
    ICAB 5141
    2017
    Berlin Classics
    0300911BC
    2017
    Berlin Classics
    0300839BC
    2017
    Oehms Classics
    OC 030
    2017
    Decca / London
    2017
    Opus KURA
    OPK 2117
    2017
    BSO
    34
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4797477
    2017
    Warner Classics
    0190295886721
    2017
    Warner Classics
    561986
    2017
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5143
    2017
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 09036
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795805
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0190295975104
    2016
    Weitblick
    SSS 1972
    2016
    Alba
    ABCD 390
    2016
    Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0825646767717
    2016
    ABC Classics
    4814413
    2016
    RCA Red Seal
    88875169792
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796314
    2016
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13037
    2016
    SWR Music
    SWR 19022CD
    2016
    Decca / Philips
    4788977
    2016
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796018
    2015
    Delos
    DE 3487
    2015
    BR Klassik
    900140
    2015
    Klanglogo
    KL 1513
    2015
    Oehms Classics
    OC 1813
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2015
    Sony Classical
    88843072592
    2015
    IDIS
    6704
    2015
    RCO
    RCO 15002
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    002894795229
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2014
    Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 14006
    2014
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099999356521
    2014
    Telarc
    TEL 34659
    2014
    Telarc
    2014
    Warner Classics
    0825646278176
    2014
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 14046
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4792787
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2014
    Lodia Music
    LOCD 779
    2014
    Decca
    4787696
    2014
    Urania
    WS 121265
    2014
    Tahra
    TAH 766767
    2014
    RCA Red Seal
    88843006072
    2014
    Andromeda
    ANDRCD 9120
    2013
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099940433820
    2013
    EMI Classics
    2013
    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / RPO
    RPOSP 038
    2013
    Warner Classics
    82128
    2013
    LSO Live
    LSO 0733
    2013
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13028
    2013
    Elatus
    60435
    2013
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5090
    2013
    Regis Records
    1395
    2013
    Guild Historical
    GHCD 2402
    2013
    Decca
    4785344
    2013
    Decca
    2013
    Ondine
    ODE 12292T
    2013
    Teldec
    13136
    2013
    Audite
    95625
    2013
    Orfeo
    C 788122B
    2013
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    9058
    2013
    Oehms Classics
    OC 090
    2013
    Melodiya / Melody
    MELCD 1001746
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4791046
    2013
    Nimbus
    NI 6227
    2012
    BR Klassik
    900112
    2012
    CPO
    7777202
    2012
    LPO
    LPO 0068
    2012
    Broken Audio
    BRAU 0465
    2012
    Solo Musica
    WS 002
    2012
    Naxos Classical Archives
    980971
    2012
    Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO
    RPM 29230
    2012
    BIS
    BIS 1756
    2012
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 255
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    4033
    2012
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099963565
    2012
    Various Artists
    Naxos
    8501057
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon
    002894770055
    2012
    Tahra
    TAH 732733
    2012
    Concerto / Zebralution
    2012
    Tahra
    FURT 2010
    2011
    Naxos
    8572448
    2011
    Haenssler / Hänssler Classic
    93267
    2011
    Brilliant Classics
    94074
    2011
    Nimbus
    6130
    2011
    Helicon Classics
    029630
    2011
    RCA Red Seal
    88697933492
    2011
    Oehms Classics
    OC 408
    2011
    Broken Audio
    BRAU 0276
    2011
    Broken Audio
    BRAU 0257
    2011
    ICA Classics
    ICAC5019
    2011
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    2011
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD250
    2011
    Newton Classics
    8802079
    2011
    PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186182
    2011
    Newton Classics
    8802063
    2011
    TwoPianists
    TP 1039121
    2011
    Decca / Universal
    2011
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    7826732
    2011
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    8869768604
    2011
    Quartz
    QTZ 2054
    2011
    Cascavelle
    VEL 3152
    2011
    Membran
    233373
    2011
    Guild
    GHCD 2369
    2010
    Sony Classical
    8869768365
    2010
    Fab Four
    233023
    2010
    Decca
    4782365
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Oehms Classics
    675
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Sony Classical
    53279
    2010
    LPO
    43
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Seattle Symphony
    3083
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Warner Classics
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2894778840
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449 829-2GH3
    2010
    Philips
    2010
    X5 Music Group
    15414
    2009
    Virgin Classics
    2009
    Virgin Classics
    932232
    2009
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    477 818-3
    2009
    Tahra
    2005
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    World of Classic / Zebralution
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Testament
    1431
    2009
    BBC Legends / BBC Music
    42512
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Col Legno Classics
    60015
    2009
    Denon Records
    00795041943163
    2009
    EMI Classics
    5099926725
    2009
    Myto Records
    213
    2009
    Antes Edition / Zebralution
    2009
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    9068
    2009
    Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009
    Orfeo
    725085
    2009
    Decca
    4781740
    2009
    Decca
    4782030
    2009
    Documents / Membran
    232540
    2009
    Documents/Membran
    223508
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4356832
    2008
    Lontano / Warner Classics
    4696626
    2008
    Warner Classics
    4643792
    2008
    Landscape Classics
    2008
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    88697202419
    2008
    EMI Classics
    5627422
    2008
    SDG (Soli Deo Gloria)
    702
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474166
    2008
    Naxos Historical
    8111274
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4777579
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    00440 073 4386
    2008
    Idis
    6554
    2008
    Various Artists
    ZYX Music
    100542
    2008
    Brilliant Classics
    93554
    2008
    Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    93165
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099951203
    2007
    Guild Historical
    2320
    2007
    Medici Masters
    5
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2007
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099950091
    2007
    Grafisound
    GS 176782
    2007
    Apex
    2007
    Coviello / Coviello Classics
    30704
    2007
    Warner Classics
    64159
    2007
    PentaTone Classics
    5186307
    2007
    Arte Nova
    378520
    2007
    EMI Classics
    50677290
    2007
    Audite
    95592
    2007
    Verdi Music
    144236814
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    7344331
    2007
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    6044
    2007
    Documents
    231060
    2007
    Various Artists
    Simply
    043
    2007
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    93178
    2007
    Arte Edition
    2055538
    2006
    Brilliant
    92878
    2006
    Universal
    2006
    Sanctuary
    2009
    2006
    Altara Music
    1006
    2006
    Warner Music
    61892
    2006
    EMI Classics
    2006
    Supraphon
    38682
    2006
    Sony Music Distribution
    678764
    2006
    Tuxedo Music
    1058
    2006
    Decca / Universal Music
    2006
    Andromeda
    5066
    2006
    Resonance
    405
    2006
    Warner Classics / Warner Music
    4627682
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4776237
    2006
    Testament
    1012
    2006
    Urania
    304
    2006
    Golden Melodram
    40079
    2005
    Brilliant
    99946
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Silverline Records
    284208
    2005
    Virgin Classics
    61360
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    LSO
    70
    2005
    Naxos
    6110077
    2005
    Naxos
    5110077
    2005
    Naxos
    8557428
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    86092
    2005
    Archipel
    0211
    2005
    Apex
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    AVIE
    2051
    2005
    Archipel
    0190
    2005
    Decca
    475 6090DC6
    2005
    Weitblick
    48
    2005
    Berlin Classics
    0013502
    2005
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    5021
    2005
    Haenssler
    93134
    2005
    Archipel
    0254
    2005
    Philips
    4756353
    2005
    Artone
    222604
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2004
    Oehms
    506
    2004
    RCA Red Seal
    62322
    2004
    EMI Music Distribution
    62760
    2004
    Centurion Classics
    2063
    2004
    LSO Live
    LSO 0045
    2004
    High Definition Classics
    019
    2004
    ASV
    729
    2004
    RCA Red Seal
    60388
    2004
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    92392
    2004
    Music & Arts
    1146
    2004
    Document
    221543
    2004
    Silverline Classics
    288237
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000218702
    2004
    Document
    203184
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000041502
    2003
    NM Classics
    97017
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000019902
    2003
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2003
    Arts Music
    43013
    2003
    Elatus
    2564604352
    2003
    Philips
    000054702
    2003
    Artemis Classics
    1184
    2003
    Various Artists
    Andante
    1030
    2003
    Various Artists
    Andante
    1973
    2003
    IDIS
    6392/3
    2003
    Document
    220822
    2003
    Decca
    000017402
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    75956
    2003
    Tahra
    490-491
    2003
    Budapest Music Center
    067
    2003
    Tahra
    1
    2003
    Various Artists
    History
    45515
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4744002
    2003
    Melodram
    40068
    2002
    Deutsche Grammophon
    471443
    2002
    Philips
    470942
    2002
    D Classics
    70541
    2002
    Classica d'Oro
    1068
    2002
    EMI Music Distribution
    75502
    2002
    Urania
    URN 22224
    2002
    Rca Red Seal
    89102
    2002
    Virgin
    62081
    2002
    RCA Red Seal
    89103
    2002
    Supraphon
    36692
    2002
    Opus KURA
    2022
    2002
    Apex
    44351
    2002
    Living Stage
    35146
    2002
    Doremi Records
    7798
    2002
    Rca Red Seal
    90114
    2002
    Audiophile Records
    555
    2002
    Tahra
    2175/6
    2001
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2001
    Classica d'Oro
    1028
    2001
    Urania
    181
    2001
    Supraphon
    110394
    2001
    Classica d'Oro
    1009
    2001
    Rca Red Seal
    74321
    2001
    Ondine
    ODE9902T
    2001
    Tahra
    1054-1057
    2001
    History
    203090
    2001
    Simax
    1206
    2001
    History
    204573
    2001
    History
    205241
    2001
    Tahra
    391-393
    2000
    Naxos
    8 554119
    2000
    Teldec
    84067
    2000
    Teldec
    82128
    2000
    Claves
    509012
    2000
    Arkadia
    78564
    2000
    RS
    0540041
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    459636
    2000
    Dutton Laboratories
    CDK1210
    2000
    Amadis
    7005
    2000
    Vox
    7801
    2000
    Testament
    3167
    2000
    INA Memoire Vive
    033
    2000
    Dutton Laboratories
    9705
    2000
    Arcobaleno
    9422
    2000
    Music & Arts
    4857
    2000
    Q Disc
    97015
    2000
    Melodiya
    245
    1999
    Chandos
    99764
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    445505
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    427253
    1999
    Biddulph Recordings
    WHL052
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    459635
    1999
    Sony Music Distribution
    60970
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    56843
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    73555
    1999
    Warner Classics
    1999
    Iron Needle
    1391
    1999
    Angel Records
    67029
    1999
    Berlin Classics
    0092432
    1999
    RCA
    55838
    1999
    Grammofono 2000
    78764/5
    1999
    Cala Records
    524
    1999
    Music & Arts
    CD4941
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447398
    1999
    Haenssler
    98351
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    67101
    1998
    Naxos Historical
    81108056
    1998
    Deutsche Grammophon
    431790
    1998
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1998
    Teldec
    43479
    1998
    Haenssler
    98186
    1998
    Arkadia
    78548
    1998
    Testament
    1142
    1998
    Teldec
    90883
    1998
    Music & Arts
    CD1018
    1997
    GM Recordings
    2051
    1997
    Compose Records
    9153
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1997
    Eclipse Records
    64355
    1997
    Sony Music Distribution
    63287
    1997
    Telarc Distribution
    80463
    1997
    Point Classics
    267127
    1997
    Philips
    442799
    1997
    EMI Music Distribution
    69515
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453097
    1997
    Music & Arts
    995
    1997
    Telarc Distribution
    80450
    1997
    Teldec
    13136
    1997
    Grammofono 2000
    78026
    1997
    Tahra
    222
    1997
    Tahra
    175/8
    1997
    Magic
    48051
    1997
    Cala Records
    0520
    1997
    Grammofono 2000
    78751
    1996
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449715
    1996
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449 601-2GJB5
    1996
    Mercury
    434380
    1996
    Teldec
    13565
    1996
    Erato
    95191
    1996
    Arte Nova
    37852
    1996
    Supraphon
    1995
    1996
    Supraphon
    1989
    1996
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447408
    1996
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    CD-941
    1996
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    3054
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    78956
    1996
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    448197
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    62288
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    CD-904
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    857
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    10600
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    263921
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    561226-2
    1995
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    29682
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    Eurodisc
    69220
    1995
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    65513
    1995
    Carlton
    2014
    1995
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    64470
    1995
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    1995
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    1941
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    4159
    1995
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    9019
    1995
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    6433
    1995
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    74321303672
    1995
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    70833
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    18005
    1995
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    90114
    1995
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    66248
    1995
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    78008
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    885924
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    CD-833
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    553228
    1995
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    89009
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    90922
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    1209
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    94817
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    504001
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    550278
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    4531
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    804
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    442 068-2PB4
    1994
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    438757
    1994
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    1994
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    017
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    2124
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    6101
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    32128
    1993
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    436 289-2DH
    1993
    Pilz
    442094
    1992
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    48398
    1992
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    430799
    1991
    Deutsche Grammophon
    431161
    1991
    Sony Classical
    46534