One might expect Andrew Manze's interpretations of Johannes Brahms' four symphonies to adhere to ideas of the movement for historically informed performance practice, due to his scholarship and dedication to authenticity in his early music performances. However, and somewhat paradoxically, he and the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra have delivered more or less mainstream readings on modern instruments; there are no signs of late 19th century woodwind or brass timbres, and the strings play with standard vibrato. Yet Manze's historical fact finding has gone to a deeper level than just replicating instrumentation or orchestral scale, and he has found numerous clues to Brahms' intentions in the composer's transcriptions of the symphonies for two pianos, which often vary with the published orchestral scores in accentuation, tempo indications, and phrasing. These are fine points that can be discerned with careful listening and great familiarity with many other recordings of the symphonies, both conventional and historic, but they may not be the main thing listeners will consider in appreciating this set. The playing and the recording quality are up to the extraordinarily high levels set by CPO in all its releases, and these resilient works sound as good as they ever did under any other conductor.
This duo set unites all of Brahms’ Piano Trios, masterpieces of the genre, in performances of integrity and beauty from the Trio Fontenay.
Bernard Haitink conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms’s great orchestral works, including the complete symphonies. The concertos feature three great soloists: pianist Claudio Arrau, violinist Henryk Szeryng, and cellist Janos Starker. "No one, I trust, will deny that Arrau has lived with, wrestled with, and in a truly terribly way ’known’ the D minor Concerto for more years than most of us can consciously recall. Where contemporary pianists have often tended to refine or domesticate the concerto, withdrawing it from the world of heroic endeavour, Arrau has always done the reverse. No pianist, apart possibly from Serkin in his several recordings, has communicated so formidably the work’s scope: its seriousness and its anxious, tragic mood. Often Arrau makes free with the text. But the vision is huge, the technique astonishing. Haitink is a worthy accompanist."
Julius Katchen performs the composer's work whom he most favored; again, highly-esteemed recordings among classical cognoscenti.
Longtime fans of reclusive Romanian pianist Radu Lupu will no doubt already know his handful of recordings of Brahms' piano music made in the '70s and early '80s for Decca – his recklessly imperious F minor Sonata, romantically dramatic D minor Concerto, inwardly brooding D minor Variations, and richly autumnal late rhapsodies, ballades, and intermezzos. But fans of Brahms' piano music who don't already know Lupu's recordings will be overwhelmed by what they'd heretofore missed. Lupu's full, round tone, his effortless virtuosity, his poetic intensity, and his soulful expressivity combine in unified performances of consummate artistry.
As well as Brahms’ 175th birthday in 2008 inspired these recordings in the “Kunsthaus” in Mürzzuschlag. Ronald Fuchs and Chanda VanderHart play, in addition to the two cello sonatas, six Brahms lieder transcriptions in their original keys. The lieder selected have a special connection to both the Streicher piano and with Mürzzuschlag itself. Brahms played severel of them, including “Wie Melodien zieht es mir” with Hermine Spies, and composed both “Sapphische Ode” and “Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht” during his time in Mürzzuschlag.