Brahms, J.: Symphony No. 1 / Schicksalslied / Begrabnisgesang
“These are intensely dramatic performances, powerful and unmanicured. The gathering drama of the three choral pieces is channelled and unleashed in a towering account of the First Symphony's opening movement.”
Brahms’ large-scale music is brimful of vigour, drama and a driving passion - says John Eliot Gardiner in his introductory notes. One way to release these characteristics is, for the conductor, to set his symphonies in the context of his own superb and often neglected choral music, and that of the old masters he particularly cherished and studied (Schütz and Bach especially) and of recent heroes of his (Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann). “This way”, says Gardiner, “we are able to gain a new perspective on his symphonic compositions, drawing attention to the intrinsic vocality at the heart of his writing for orchestra”. Composing such substantial choral works as Schicksalslied, which also features on this release, gave Brahms invaluable experience of orchestral writing years before he brought his first symphony to fruition. Solemnity, pathos, terror and jubilation are all experienced and encapsulated before they come to a head in the finale of the first symphony.
The conductor himself chose the illustrations for the covers of this series, paintings by Sir Howard Hodgkin (who is Gardiner’s first cousin), as the layers of intense colour in the acclaimed painter’s work seem to Gardiner to perfectly match the marvellous different layers of sound in Brahms’ orchestra. Inside the same elegant packaging used for the Bach Cantatas CDs, the liner notes feature an in-depth conversation between John Eliot Gardiner and composer Hugh Wood.
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
Begräbnisgesang, Op. 13
Schicksalslied, Op. 54
Mitten wir im Leben sind Op. 23 No. 3
The Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner