Previously published on September 19
Tragic Overture (placed last) receives a powerful and thrusting account, the performers alive to the music’s passions while also reaching into the confiding recesses of this great score, which is as dug into as it is sensitively sculptured.
In what is the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Herbert Blomstedt’s debut on Pentatone (recorded during September and October last year), and which is also the beginning of a Brahms cycle from them, the First Symphony wears its minor-key designation without overtness. Timpani and basses are lightly touched in during the Un poco sostenuto introduction, which cues a trenchant exposition (repeated) at a tempo that allows an organic integration of subjects – this is emotionally intense music-making but it doesn’t sag under its own weight. The slow movement is generously expressive, persuasively moulded at something nearer to adagio than the marked Andante – and with some quite lovely solo contributions. Following a lyrical, reverie-leaning, third movement, with gratifying attention given to bass pizzicatos, the expansive Finale (here longer than the first even with the latter’s repetition observed, rightly tilting the structural balance to ultimate triumph) is given a suspenseful dark-to-light (major-key) release that is compassionate and thrilling, if let-down somewhat by Blomstedt broadening the tempo during the coda – at least it’s grand rather than some other conductors’ grotesque.
The recording is good – a little bright perhaps although the Leipzig violins (antiphonal) gleam like sunlight on water. Volume Two is keenly looked forward to (if perhaps delayed by Covid ‘distancing’ restrictions – this is the Gewandhausorchester at full strength) … meanwhile this opening salvo is on Pentatone PTC 5186 850 and becomes available on September 25.