Skip to main content

 Recording of the Week  Rattle conducts Brahms

Following on from last week’s theme - if the Concertgebouw is closely associated with the symphonies of Bruckner, then the Berlin Philharmonic has the music of Brahms at the centre of its sound and style of playing. Brahms’ four symphonies were still very new when the Orchestra was founded in 1887, but their very German inspired sound world must have immediately chimed a chord with the German musicians, with ideas like the horns coming from the distance and the colours of the forests recreated in the music.

Brahms’ music is so much about colours and a really outstanding performance needs an outstanding orchestra that has a richness of timbre as standard, but can tweak it in many different ways as the music demands. The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the very few orchestras in the world with that capability and although they have already made a number of outstanding recordings of these symphonies (with previous principal conductors like Karajan and Abbado), there is always room for a new one.

Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle

Next Monday, EMI is releasing a new 3-disc set of the complete cycle from the Orchestra’s current Principal Conductor Sir Simon Rattle. Rattle has come quite late to recording Brahms. I think this is probably because musically Brahms is one of the hardest composers to really get right. The Rite of Spring for example might be technically a lot harder for both orchestra and conductor, but musically it is quite straightforward and, if you know what you’re aiming for and have the players to produce it, you’re a long way there already. Brahms is a lot more difficult, because it is a lot harder to know exactly what you have to do to get it right.

I’ve been listening to this set for a few weeks now and it really is outstanding in every way. I think the thing that is most overwhelming though is the incredible warmth and beauty of sound that Rattle achieves from the orchestra. It is similar to what he achieved in his 2007 recording of Ein deutsches Requiem, which went on to win a Gramophone Award, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar accolade following here.

I’ve put a short video about the recordings on the website to give you a bit more of an idea, and it is also well worth checking out our Simon Rattle special offer which we currently have running with discounts of up to 50% on most of Rattle's back catalogue of recordings. Enjoy!

Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1-4 (complete)

Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC