ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
JOHANNES BRAHMS - Symphony No. 2


JOHANNES BRAHMS - Symphony No. 2 - Budapest Festival Orchestra - Iván Fischer (Conductor) - Hybrid SACD - 723385335146 - Released: January 2015 - Channel Classics 33514

The First Symphony by Johannes Brahms (reviewed here) is a tense and dramatic powerhouse loaded with ideas that Brahms collected and labored on for fourteen years before putting his pen down, and that was borne out of a long, anxious and tortuous gestation period. By comparison, his Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73 sounds like a walk in the park. Whereas the First had been labeled at the time as Beethoven's Tenth by some critics based on its romantic ideals, the Second sounds more like Beethoven's Sixth. It is more "classical" in style and structure, and is characterized by a bucolic nature, more relaxed atmosphere and almost sunny disposition.

And that's precisely how conductor Iván Fischer perceives and projects this work, by giving it a warm and lyrical interpretation. The fluidity of his phrasing is remarkable, the fine control he holds on dynamic extremes is well balanced throughout, especially at critical points of entry, and tempos are not fast, but do keep things moving forward nicely. And lets not forget that wonderfully congenial and warm sound the Budapest Festival Orchestra musicians produce. It's perfectly suited for this type of symphonic music. They play as one entity and yet manage to reveal clearly each and every strand of the score. This is not a heavy, beefy, carved in granite account ŕ la Klemperer or Toscanini by any measure. Instead, it gathers its energy from within the music itself until in the final movement, it ends with a radiant glow. The music of Brahms is often portrayed as being dark, serious and dense. Well, not from Iván Fischer's perspective.

This recording also contains fine readings of two other works from the same period. The Tragic Overture and the Academic Festival Overture.

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2015