If Brahms 3 is the autumnal work it is often described as being, then Iván Fischer’s painterly conducting showers us with falling leaves. This cossetted account enjoys innumerable subtleties of dynamics and nuances, the BFO playing with affection and warmth – brass embedded into the whole – and spaciously recorded without losing Fischer’s abundance of detailing, not least his assigning of violins either side of the podium.
However, it could be argued that the first movement (with exposition repeat) lacks momentum and is too emotionally comfortable despite all the finesse on offer; conversely, the Finale is rather driven, so that the significance of the passage between 1’46” and 2’10” (later from 5’06”) is rather glossed over.
The middle movements pass muster though, exceptionally – flowing, expressive and without a chink in Brahms’s confidential armour, nor are there any bumps in the third-movement Poco allegretto (although, here, from a concert in June 2008, Maazel remains unforgettable: https://www.classicalsource.com/concert/philharmonia-orchestra-maazel-brahms-the-romantic-2/).
Fischer’s Brahms 3 is a version to keep on the shelves, for it is very rewarding in its musicianship and for suggesting Brahms as sanguine supremo (“frei aber froh” – free but happy – indeed), and a master serenader, which is why this Budapest taping of the following Opus 16 (scored without violins) is an absolute winner, wonderfully beguiling (heartfelt and perky), if intriguingly sinewy at times, maybe because the BFO is less recessed than in the Symphony. Channel Classics CCS SA 43821 [SACD].