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Reviews: Brahms: Violin Concerto, Hungarian Dances - Swensen

Reviews: 4

Site review by Polly Nomial February 2, 2008
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Review by nickc May 14, 2004 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Excellent if essentially small scaled reading of the concerto. In the book the orchestra states it is the size that might have been expected in Brahms' day, but, after listening to the Concertgebow play this in a 70s recording it just seems a little light. Surely Brahms would have wanted more than 16 as the violin complement for the vast expanses of the symphonic first movement. Adagio is a touch too fast more my liking as well. The Hungarian Dances seem to come off much better and are a generous makeweight. The recording is clear as a bell but not particularly warm. Muliti-channel is of course an improvement on stereo but even then we don't seem to get a real feel for the hall, unlike my reference concerto recording in MC, Akiko Suwanai playing the Sibelius and Walton concertos on Philips. In MC that recording is overwhelming whereas we always seem to be at a slight distance here. Still highly enjoyable.

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Review by stvnharr September 11, 2004 (0 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I agree with Nick that the Concerto recording is a little small sounding, but the playing of Joseph Swensen more than makes up for it. I have enjoyed this recording a lot. The Hungarian Dances do tend to have a slightly bigger orchestral sound, and are all delightful pieces. All in all a very enjoyable disc!

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Review by Audiophilius April 1, 2005 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Amazing recording!!!

I've heard many, many versions of this concerto; it's one of my favorite concertos, and Brahms - for me - is one of the greatest composers. This one has become one of my favorite versions (maybe even the most). It's wonderfull to hear a soloist and orchestra play together that well; they're all part of one big spirit. This version reveals a lot of details (even the finest), while the big/main line isn't lost at all. And about the smaller size of the orchestra; I like it! Brahms often sounds 'too heavy' and thick, even sometimes troubled, when performed by some conductors/full orchestras. But using smaller orchestras doesn't mean you're being sure of getting a clear performance. In my opinion, Swensen leaves the version of Sir Neville Marriner e.g. (with Hilary Hahn) far behind, regarding the performance of the orchestra. I really don't like the coloration and style of playing of the orchestra in that recording. Hilary Hahn's playing, on the contrary, is beautiful.
Swensen has succeeded (from my point of view) in making a great and very moving performance and recording of the Brahms voilin concerto. Coloration, choices of tempo, phrasing... in one word: brilliant!

The Hungarian Dances are simply being performed with the same feeling for details and long lines. Whipping 'gypsian' drive being varied with moving lyricism.

About the sonics... The sound of the recording is fantastic. The only thing I would like to have heard is a fraction more acoustic breath in the rear channels. But that's a very small point. From the deapest bass-lines of the basses to the heighest hights; it sounds very natural and clear!

Totally recommended!

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