An amazing recording where the venue is as much a star as the music and the people playing it.
Repertoire: Symphonies Nos. 1-4
Artist: Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich/David Zinman
Label: RCA Red Seal 88697 93349 2
The Music: Brahms’s four symphonies amount quite simply to some of the greatest music ever written, combining vast technical mastery with a unique emotional warmth.
The Performance: Zurich’s Tonhalle hall is a star in itself, with its wonderful acoustics: rich, mellow and clear. So too is the orchestra’s playing for Zinman, which impressively renews the time-honoured Austro-German tradition of Karajan and Klemperer. No non-vibrato, period-instrument revisionism here! Instead there’s a firm-toned, glowing power which, in the passages like the great horn tune in the First Symphony’s finale, is seriously enthralling. There’s lovely grace and poise in the quieter moments too. The ultimate challenge is the huge tragic power of the Fourth Symphony’s final movement. Zinman and the orchestra rise to it, and then some.
The Verdict: As close to a definitive set of these masterworks as you’ll find – and in fabulous modern recorded sound.
Want More? The Tonhalle Orchestra’s excellence shines through their fine collection of Beethoven’s overtures, again with Zinman (Arte Nova, 82876 57831-2).