The Well-Tempered Ear

Sir Simon Rattle to stay with Berlin Philharmonic through 2018; Should I buy his new set of Brahms symphonies?

November 14, 2009
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

I just can’t decide.

Should I get the new set of Brahms symphonies by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic? RattleBrahms

Or should I save the money and use it for something else.

I do love the Brahms symphonies. And I do love the Berlin players(below). I heard them perform Beethoven’s Seventh Symph0ny and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 (with conductor Claudio Abbado and pianist Maurizio Pollini) right after 9/11 in Carnegie Hall. And I have never before or since heard any large group of double basses play fast sixteenth notes with such precision and audible detachment or distinction. DV177039

And as you may have read, Sir Simon recently has had his contract with the Berliners extended though 2018, although there were rumors that the Berliners’ bosses were displeased that Rattle was doing too many modern things and wasn’t doing enough of the standard, solid German repertoire.

(Could the new 3-CD Brahms set be timed to be an answer to that criticism right during contract negotiations? Now, why would anyone be suspicious about such things. This is art. I mean, ART.)

Sometimes I like Rattle and sometimes I don’t.

And I am fond of Leonard Bernstein’s recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic, which may be quirky but are certainly distinctive and, to me, convincing.

For more mainstream readings, I also have a set by George Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and another by Claudio Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic. (Is the van Karajan set really that good?)

But I have heard some excerpts of the Rattle Brahms on the radio. I liked Rattle’s faster tempi, but the sound seemed thin and superficial.

Has anyone out there heard the whole set?

Buyer or user review at are generally very positive but I don’t always trust them.

What do you, my readers, recommend?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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