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Brahms: The Symphonies [DVD Video]
Brahms The Symphonies
DVD Video
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     2hr 41min

Maestro Herbert von Karajan leads the Berlin Philharmonic in a live performance from 1973 of all 4 Brahms Symphonies.


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Movie Details

Creators: J. Brahms, Herbert von Karajan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 03/11/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 41min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Another superb Brahms DVD set from DGG
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 03/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I loved the Brahms symphonies conducted by Leonard Bernstein that were released several months ago on DVD by DGG. In my review, I noted that Bernstein used extremely broad tempos, often making Brahms sound more like Mahler. One gets used to those Adagio speed slow movements because Bernstein makes them sound so right, wringing pure emotion from them as only he could. Now DGG offers us the anti-Bernstein in Herbert von Karajan's splendid set of Brahms symphonies recorded in 1973. Karajan conducts them with eyes closed, often intently enraptured by the music, smiling occasionally when a passage or solo sounds just right to his ear. He conducts Brahms with a greater sense of urgency than does Bernstein: the First symphony is 11 minutes shorter as conducted by Karajan! Nothing is rushed but there is what can only be described as emotional compression, an intensity of expression that sounds quicker than Bernstein's performances.

By comparing these different visions of Brahm's great symphonies, one is confronted by the rather stark differences between these two great conductors. Bernstein inhabits these symphonies as a sort of surrogate composer, making them his own, adopting a very personal mode of expression, channeling Brahms as if the symphonies were part of a musical seance on a rainy afternoon. Karajan conducts them as if he were a spectator at a concert and this was how he most enjoyed hearing them played. This emotional distancing makes sense, in fact it is most helpful, because Brahms is a Romantic composer by way of temporal contingency and probably not by inclination. In fact, Brahms is a profoundly Classical composer, his closest antecedent being Mozart, with whom Brahms shares a deep expressive ambiguity and a disinclination to wallow in strong emotional outbursts.

Karajan conducts Brahms as if he were conducting Mozart. In the process, he elicits great beauty from the Berlin Philharmonic, their slow movements sounding autumnal and burnished by sadness, heartbreaking but never self-indulgent. The Second symphony is profound and tragic, yet never yielding its mellow loveliness. The Third symphony is more ephemeral, quicksilver and slightly elfin in quality. The Fourth symphony wraps itself in the weightiness of the Bach derived eight bar passacaglia, whose variations construct the final movement. All the while, Brahms is looking back at a vanished world, the symphony's musical notes sounding like the soft whisper of ghosts. These are powerfully atmospheric performances, with lovely orchestral colors and a paradoxically calm yet urgent expressiveness. This was von Karajan at the height of his powers.

The two DVDs last for 161 minutes. The picture is digitally remastered, the sound in PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 crisp and clear. The films are quite well done, utilizing concert footage as well as discrete studio closeups. Karajan's Brahms performances are exemplary and are most strongly recommended.

Mike Birman"
Thrilling Brahms
Mr. Peter M. Donnelly | West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia | 04/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in Brahms was always special. Even his final years produced an excellent recording of the Violin Concerto with his protege Ann Sophie Mutter. These performances from the 1970s provide that unique dark and deep Berlin string sound and brilliant golden brass so suited to bringing out the best in this composer's unique sound world. The performances are classically direct with plenty of passion. Karajan always excelled in Nos 1 and 2. He, like many conductors including Toscanini, had difficulty in getting No 3 just right. This performance is certainly his best attempt. No 4 is also excellent."
Brahms by vonKarajan
Joe | Madison, NJ USA | 09/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What can one say? Von Karjan was one of the two or three greatest conductors of the twentieth century - only Toscanini and Bernstein come to mind as one who could challenge him. Like every other von Karajan recording (and I have most of them), he shows control and mastery of the music. I enjoyed the Brahms as I have enjoyed every other von Karajan recording - which is immensly. You may disagree with some nuance in his performance, but he cannot be ignored. You don't have to watch him to enjoy his performances, but the DVD brings you into the hall with him.

I can recall in 1959 or 1960 reading a letter to an editor of a music magazine complaining that von Karajan had run through more fast sports cars, more fast boats, and more (I won't say fast here) women than all other world-class conductors put together. The writer left out planes - von Karjan owned and piloted his own jet. He had a love of technology - he almost went into engineering. Perhaps all of that aided his mastery of the complications of scores of Bruckner and Brahms (to mention two composers ofter put up against each other by their enthusiasts) to Mozart, Tchaikovsky (I wish he had recorded the First Symphony) to more modern composers."
Nelson Nisenbaum | 02/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This box contains everything you need to know about BRAHMS'S Symphonies and about excellence on interpretation. Besides the fact that Karajan's conducting technique is not a full example of ellegance on this matter, the result is astonishing, at least, and give us clearly the idea of the "german" way to play Brahms. Berlin Phil. does the rest, giving us a full experience of a perfect orchestra."