Haitink Conducts Brahms

Bernard Haitink conducts Brahms’ 3rd

The Brahms symphony #3 is one of my great favorites. In it, it seems to me, Brahms paints the Austrian countryside with such sensitivity and beauty. This is a highly melodic work, yet in places it also takes me to very hushed and peaceful places.

Bernard Haitink directs the London Symphony Orchestra in an excellent reading of this masterpiece. The orchestra produces a lush sound, and it’s easy to sway back and forth with the music’s great themes. After the grand opening movement, we have the wonderful Andante slow movement that opens with velvety clarinet and horn playing, and remains delightful throughout. The 3rd movement is a Poco Allegretto with the wonderful well-known theme, and then we come to the concluding, majestic Allegro. This is Brahms at the height of his powers as an orchestrator, and as a master of developing musical ideas.

Johannes Brahms felt that he was living in the shadow of Beethoven. As such, he waited for many years before he felt that his first Symphony was adequately developed so that he agreed to present it to the public. Prior to publishing his four symphonies, however, he gave us two wonderful Serenades. This recording includes Brahms’ Serenade number 2. It is a five-movement work, and clearly quite symphonic in its character. The Serenade is unusually scored for wind instruments, violas, cellos and double basses. There are no violins. Perhaps for that reason, it is rarely performed at concerts. Listen carefully and you’ll note how the woodwinds produce a wonderful contrast against the dark sound of the violas, cellos and Basses. There are 2 fast movements at the beginning and the end. The 3rd movement is an Adagio non Troppo. The whole work is great fun to hear!

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