Brahms: Symphony No 3 in F major, Op 90; Symphony No 4 in E minor, Op 98

Reviewed on Mon 30 Jan, 2017

The Third Symphony finds Thomas Hengelbrock as a capricious interpreter: urgent and unsentimental in the first movement (exposition repeated), dragging and impulsive in the second, and reflectively autumnal in the third; the striving and resolving finale is more traditional overall.

Recorded a few months before the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg was opened to the public this January, these Brahms readings suggest the venue as warm and clear, although, as recorded, violins are a little recessed and lean, and the volume needs a boost (better that than having to turn it down). The Third Symphony (placed second on the disc!) finds Thomas Hengelbrock as a capricious interpreter: urgent and unsentimental in the first movement (exposition repeated), dragging and impulsive in the second, and reflectively autumnal in the third; the striving and resolving finale is more traditional overall. The Fourth (opening with surprising but not unknown bars) is impressive musically, jerks aside, very well prepared and played, but not wholly engaging. I kept asking myself: “Does this account go deep enough?” You’ll know my answer, but the performance is ostensibly fine, if without sinking its teeth into the music’s potential, too controlled from outside.
–Colin Anderson