Brahms: Symphonies – No 1 in C minor, Op 68; No 2 in D major, Op 73; No 3 in F major, Op 90; No 4 in E minor, Op 98

Reviewed on Thu 17 Aug, 2017

Quite frankly, it's impossible not to warm to music-making of such intoxicating sweep, combustible spontaneity and freshness of new discovery – and what a sublimely articulate response the Latvian maestro draws from his magnificent orchestra.

Andris Nelsons leads his golden-toned Bostonians in memorably supple, entrancingly organic and thrillingly alive readings of all four Brahms symphonies, vividly captured from concerts held in Symphony Hall during November 2016. Quite frankly, it's impossible not to warm to music-making of such intoxicating sweep, combustible spontaneity and freshness of new discovery – and what a sublimely articulate response the Latvian maestro draws from his magnificent orchestra (brass and wind principals alike cover themselves in glory). Textures are sifted with rare mastery, and there are countless touches that both effortlessly activate the goosebumps and readily stoke the imagination – but never, I should stress, at the expense of the grander scheme. So we find that Nelsons's Third is as big-hearted as it is flexible, yet conspicuously purposeful too, and it's preceded by a traversal of the Second guaranteed to lift the spirits in its winning poise, beaming affection and cumulative impact (the closing pages are hugely exciting). Elsewhere, the Fourth possesses power, awestruck wonder and grace in abundance (in the slow movement listen to those fabulously rich Boston strings from 8'44”), and if the First just occasionally lacks the last degree of clinching intensity, it remains a richly enjoyable, gloriously poised encounter none the less. A terrific set, this, and absolutely not to be missed.
–Andrew Achenbach