This Brahms set is exceptional value . . . [Thielemann] draws warmly flexible playing from his orchestra, and never fails to drive home the big climaxes . . . these excellent performances [give pleasure] . . .
There is Thielemann's Brahms in a nutshell. Not for him the score's contrast between the Allegro non troppo and animato sections but a seamless progress between the two while making a personal drama from dynamic subtleties and legato or separated articulation. This rounded approach pays dividends in the Second . . . The finale is an object demonstration both of the "archaic violence" he believes is proper to Brahms, and of his determination to voice every part, let nothing become passagework or accompaniment. For the same reasons, the "Tragic Overture" is the highlight of the CD set, driven forwards with unrelenting energy and an unremitting vision of its goal . . . As ever he looks for light in the texture, and behind the notes. In Dresden he has the ideal orchestra to help him find it.
Bold design, bold performances, bold everything. Thielemann is easily the match of these legendary symphonies and turns in a reliable set.
Another nicely packaged, reasonably priced Brahms box hits the shelves . . . these are extremely enjoyable, cogent readings . . . a glorious sound . . . Thielemann's unapologetically retro style brings many pleasures . . . Thielemann is especially good at exploring Brahms's darker ruminations . . . Thielemann's brooding account of no 4 is among the best recent recordings . . . The overtures are enjoyable, particularly the "Academic Festival", and Maurizio Pollini gives us powerful accounts of the two very different piano concertos, the D minor work especially successful. Lisa Batiashvili's Violin Concerto is muscular and assertive, complete with the rarely-heard Busoni cadenza. A winner.
If a single release can cause a musical era to coalesce, this new Brahms cycle may do that for Christian Thielemann. It feels, to me at least, like the ascension of a German conductor worthy to turn the page from the Karajan era . . . As we learned from Thielemann's superb accompaniments to the two Brahms piano concertos with Pollini, he's brought the orchestra to a state of incredible polish, flowing musicality, and velvet-gloved power . . . We're hearing one of the world's great orchestras with up-to-date fidelity. These are poetic, assured, and expansive readings . . . [Symphony no. 1]: the Dresden string choir, from top to bottom, is seamless and gleaming . . . [in the opening of the first movement,] Thielemann steps lightly while creating the kind of supple nuances and half-lights that will mark every performance here. Nothing is generalized, not even for a minute. Few Brahms Firsts are memorable for the poignancy of their details, but this one is, even in the finale's big tune . . . [Symphony no. 2]: Thielemann's delicacy here is remarkable. He really makes you lean forward to catch every subtlety. The scherzo is unusually gentle, with lovely intertwining of the woodwind voices. The famous soft-loud opening of the finale is judged with great skill . . . In all, this is a great performance of the Brahms Second for its combination of sweep and detail . . . [the "Tragic" and "Academic Festival" overtures are both] high-caliber readings. The bonus DVD is incredibly generous, featuring the two Brahms piano concertos with Pollini and the violin concerto with Batiashvili . . . and all are splendid performances.
. . . [the symphonies] are well-shaped, brassy and big-boned Brahms, calmly flowing, perfectly appreciable . . . Gorgeous phrases are enthusiastically indulged in, tenderness and furiously paced outbreaks coexist in close proximity . . . [the sonority of the Dresden band] shows quite nicely. At its best (viz. the Third Symphony) with tension, portensions of weight, beautiful brass chorales, accentuated attacks, and every bit of rhythm teased out . . . [Violin Concerto]: The sumptuousness of the orchestra and Thielemann's sense for the moment (so many moments in this concerto!), coupled with the fine and determined elegance of Batiashvili, makes this a remarkable recording . . . [the world premiere recording of Clara Schumann's Three Romances for Violin and Piano (Alice Sarah Ott joins Batiashvili)]: a short, ten-minute, three-movement work performed most skillfully and really springing to life in the animated "Passionate" last movement.