Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Philharmonia Baroque/Nicholas McGegan: Brahms Serenades

I've had this gem of a CD around for a while and have been listening to it a lot lately: Nicholas McGegan conducting the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in the two Brahms Serenades.

There's a good chance that if you're reading this blog, you already know the Brahms Serenades, Op. 11 and Op. 16. If not, you certainly should: they are perfectly lovely works, large scale and ambitious without being as ambitious (or scary to compose) as a symphony, and also gorgeous.

They are much-recorded, as well they should be. This particular set stands out because PBO uses period instruments. For the most part, I can't tell from the liner notes exactly which period their instruments are rigged for on this CD, although a number of the winds are clearly 19th c.

In any event, you'll want to hear this set, which you can buy at PBO's web site. The performances are fairly relaxed; more the genial and charming Brahms than the heaven-storming, though there's some of that too. The sound is beautiful, the playing characterful. For contrast, try this brisker and more emotionally intense Boult performance of the second Serenade.

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