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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Brahms, Sinfonie Nr. 1, Franz Konwitschny, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, 1962

In 1962 conductor Franz Konwischny, just weeks before his death, gathered the Gewanhausorchester Liepzig into an East German recording studio to record Brahms' celebrated Symphony No. 1 (Berlin Classics 0300839BC). That recording, remastered from the original tapes, lives once again.

The enormous power of this reading comes to us over the years as timeless. As I first listened I heard of course once again the influence of Beethoven, but then it struck me how much it was a precursor to Bruckner's sprawling symphonies, despite the critic Hanslick's diatribes separating Wagner and then Bruckner radically from a consideration of Brahms. No, Brahms's incredibly moving First pointed backwards to Beethoven but also pointed forward to late romanticism. I have lived with a van Karajan version of the symphony for years, but this reading has something very different going on.

The strong opening assault on the senses, those beautiful andante-largo passages, the soaring lyricism of the final movement, there is an unhurried, stately, singing beauty and largeness I've never quite heard from the First until now.

The sound is excellent, the performance inspired. It is a true ear opener.

Get it if you love the First, but even if you are not sure (if that is possible).


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