Brahms symphonic thought revealed
N. Daniele Pietro | Milano, MI Italy | 06/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had great expectations about this video for several reasons: firstly I think that Andre' Previn is truly one of the most gifted conductors of our era. His eclectic repertoire is never "business as usual", and there's a lot to admire in a conductor that can handle Rachmaninov and Shostakovich with equal mastery. Also, I had expectations about Previn as a presenter, because I knew that, at the peak of his extraordinary tenure with the LSO in the 60's, he and the orchestra had a TV show where they explained and performed the classics. Unluckily they were never aired here, but now there's this 6-part BBC series from the early 80's that I judge, from this first purchase, highly rewarding. The video is pretty generous in length, basically you get 45 min. of explanation and then a whole performance of the 4th symphony (a pretty good one, too, even if the 1984 RPO was just at the beginning of their Previn era after a bad period). The spoken part, after a nice introduction about Brahms and his troubled relations with his contemporaries, focuses on passages from the first and last movement of the symphony. This is really good : Previn seems a very amiable person, and he explains in an entertaining yet authoritative way, with no snobbery at all. Also, and this is for international customers, his English is wonderfully pleasant to hear and very clear, you'll have no problems. The different orchestral parts in the most famous passages are played at first each one apart from the others, then they put them all together, as we are used to hear. The results are striking: the splendid balance between awesome technique and sheer Romantic expressiveness that makes Brahms so special is finally clear to me in a way that no book could ever do. Probably it's different if you can read music, but this is not my case. The picture quality and the direction are very good if a bit plain and the sound is a more than acceptable analog stereo, with some background hiss. A smiling final note: the first moments require a bit of "adjustment" to the early 80's look of everyone involved ( Previn's glasses and everybody's hairstyle !). Real fun (and a lot of memories..)"
"He could never rise above mediocrity"
N. Daniele Pietro | 09/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At least thats what critic George Bernard Shaw thought of Brahms.
In fact Brahms has received more than his fair share of criticism as you'll discover in the amusing commentary by Previn.Yet a shroud of mystery continues to surround his method of composition that many lovers of his music can't quite put their finger on. In one sense Brahms extends traditional classical techniques in simple ways thus restricting his expression within a narrow framework; in another sense his powers of invention within this narrow framework are so grand that it destroys any preconception of what classical music was supposed to sound like as defined by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. He is able to completely define his own unique distinctive tone of voice but should we respect the almost comical application of hungarian rondo's, for example? That is the question. In some eyes he was a genius, in others like GBS he merely strung together a collection of popular dance tunes.Previn's dissection of Brahms symphony no. 4 helps the listener understand why his music is so alluring...so durable. From the opening see-sawing of the violins to the magnificent undercurrent of lower strings it really opens your eyes as to the cleverness of Brahms.Previn may not totally convince you GBS was a fool, but he surely does present convincing evidence that Schumann was not one in "praising him [Brahms] to the sky".A critic once said of Brahms music: "The private thoughts of a clever man". I, for one, am eternally grateful for his sharing of those private thoughts."
Absolute Brahms Understood
Carlos E. Bauza | Puerto Rico | 08/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This installment of the series "Sounds Magnificent:The Story of the Symphony" is disarming in the way it clarifies the understanding and enjoyment of an apparenty dense incomprehensible composition.
Mr. Previn's commentary and musical examples go a very long way to help one understand this masterpiece and actually enjoy it passionately. It's not brilliant in the way Tchaikovsky can be, but it is brilliant in an exhilarating way that one can really appreciate. Even if the sound of Brahms can be falsely and superficially perceived as ponderous and dark. But one comes to the conslusion that it is the inevitable way the piece could have been composed. A magnificent, grand piece, with musical food for repeated enjoyment and discovery. Not, by the way, a "confessional" about Brahms' feelings about life, but rather a masterly inspired incursion into genial development of pure musical ideas.
The orchestra plays with gusto. Mr. Previn conducts in a way that makes the musical development very clear and obvious. The camera helps to illuminate many musical phrases. The sound is completely up to audiophile standards. A notable way to enjoy and understand this true masterpiece."