brahms krauss dutton

Déjà Review: this review was first published in May 2000. The recording is no longer available new, but can be obtained through third-party sellers.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Academic Festival Overture
Alto Rhapsody
Symphony No. 1 in C minor op. 68
Kathleen Ferrier (alto)
London Symphony Orchestra (overture), London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir (rhapsody)/Clemens Krauss
Concertegebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/Eduard van Beinum
Transferred from Decca originals 1947. ADD
Dutton Laboratories CDK1210 [66]

Fiery conductor though he was, Clemens Krauss was capable of genial music making and his Brahms can be counted amongst the finest in the post-war period. These rare recordings make a welcome reissue and refurbished in magnificent sound they are true gems in the Dutton CDK range.

A trenchant Academic Festival Overture includes some wonderful tutti from a clearly inspired LSO and the big theme at the end is appropriately paced to reveal a majestic grandeur that is conspicuously lacking from other interpretations by lesser mortals!

Kathleen Ferrier’s Alto Rhapsody is purely ravishing, her autumnal singing matched with peerless distinction by the LPO. Krauss is a sympathetic accompanist and he phrases the choir’s palpable entry with almost harrowing timing; the effect is rather splendid. I rate it as one of the finest Rhapsodies on record and it is indeed a shame that we have had to wait so long for its release, but thanks to Michael Dutton that ill has now been marvellously cured.

Do we need another Brahms First, I hear you ask? Splendid interpretations by Klemperer, Kempe, Toscanini (magnificent Testament reissue) and a host of others fill out the catalogue but I will always find room for this white hot interpretation from Amsterdam. Eduard van Beinum is a seriously underrated conductor but the slow trickle of recordings that are becoming available confirms him as a worthy successor to the great Willem Mengelberg. This Brahms First is indeed marvelous with an urgent steady tempo set throughout that culminates in an irresistibly beautiful rendering of the Finale; one of the finest codas I have ever heard. The Concertgebouw’s playing is utterly hair raising and the recording is perfectly clear, another tribute to Decca’s engineering post war. A must have then, for all historical devotees.

Gerald Fenech