If you’ve been hooked on Chailly’s lean, muscular Brahms cycle with the Gewandhaus Orchestra from earlier this year, you’ll find a very different but no less satisfying experience with Thielemann and the Stattskapelle Dresden.
Thielemann’s Brahms, taken from live recordings made between 2012 and 2013, is equally revelatory. Chailly achieves maximum emotional impact through absolute clarity of line and texture: his is ‘classical’ Brahms, but with grunt. Thielemann’s Brahms is, by contrast, über romantische. That’s not to imply a lack of precision or idiosyncratic liberties being taken with the score, mind: Thielemann is a master technician, but with a heart emboldened by years of conducting opera.
Aided by some glorious orchestral playing – the strings rich and full-bodied, the brass heroic in the tutti climaxes, the winds flexible and focused – he builds up impasto layers with searing brushstrokes on a broad canvas. This binds the terrific climax in the First Symphony’s Finale with the dark tragedy of the Fourth Symphony’s final passacaglia, and all that lies in between, with intimations of mortality that shine through even the beautiful simplicity of the Third Symphony’s third movement.
My only regret is not having had access to the full set, which includes a DVD of Maurizio Pollini playing the two piano concertos and Lisa Batiashvili performing the Violin Concerto.