By Orchestre des Champs-Elysees and Philippe Herreweghe. By Johannes Brahms. Country of Origin: Austria. Classical. CD. Naxos #LPH025. Published by Naxos (NX.LPH025).
Although the symphony was the most prestigious instrumental genre of his time, Brahms avoided it for many years. In 1872, when he was already more than forty years old and was widely acknowledged for his chamber and choral music, he observed: 'I will never write a symphony! You can't imagine what it's like to hear a giant treading behind you.' The giant was of course Beethoven, at once an inspiration and a source of intimidation for composers of Brahms's generation. Fortunately, however, he went back on his promise a few years later with his First Symphony, followed by three more composed between 1876 and 1885. The two works presented here are the Second Symphony, sometimes sombre, sometimes radiant, and the Fourth, a genuine masterpiece of the genre. This disc, recorded on period instruments under the masterly direction of Philippe Herreweghe, is released to coincide with a double anniversary: as a prelude to the Flemish conductor's seventieth birthday, it also celebrates the twenty-fifth year of existence of one of his favourite ensembles: the Orchestre des Champs-Elysees.