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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a gaping hole in my collection - I have no recordings of Brahm's two orchestral Serenades, please don't ask me why I have no explanation, and I can't even recall hearing them.

I am going to ask the combined wealth of knowledge gathered together on the forum for guidance as to those recordings I should consider to fill this hole.

I also appreciate that there maybe other threads already on the site that are relevant to my question but my logic in starting a new thread is that hopefully the responses will take into account newer recordings that weren't about when other threads were on the go.
 

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Malx,

Unlike Enthusiast ( see post above) the two Serenades are some of my own favourite works by Brahms and I do find myself listening to them frequently.

As with Rogerx in the previous post I frequently choose to listen to the Mackerras recordings ( which you may be able to pick up reasonably cheaply).
 
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Abbado/BPO, not my favorite conductor in Brahms (or in anything) but he's great in Brahms' "lighter" pieces like the serenades.
I hadn't realised he had recorded the serenades. I must search them out. For me, his Brahms symphonies are among the greatest recordings ever. He never forgets the warmth - essential in Brahms IMO.
 

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A pity the original score for the first serenade is lost - it would have been interesting to compare Brahms's nonet with, say, Schubert's octet, especially as they are both lengthy works. For the record, I have Haitink's recording on Philips but as I don't collect multiple recordings of anything apart from certain symphonies I can't comment on how competitive it is.
 
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I've always liked the Serenades warm and breezy. Aside from the previously mentioned Abbado and Haitink, which hit home for me, I would also offer Sir Adrian Boult.

I was left uncertain by Riccardo Chailly's, which were played hard and fast.
 

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Hi Malx,

For me, Kertesz is excellent in Brahms' 4 Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic, and he & the LSO used to be one of the standard recommendations in the Serenades 1 & 2, decades ago. However, I feel that Kertesz has been surpassed in the Serenades by more recent recordings. So, while I'd urge you to definitely hear his performances, they aren't the ones that I'd most recommend.

First, it should be pointed out that Brahms originally wrote these works as chamber music; so not surprisingly, they work especially well when played by chamber ensembles, & particularly when the woodwinds & brass are players of the first rank. To the extent that Brahms original intentions are how this music most makes sense to me.

With that in mind, here are my two favorite chamber versions of the Serenade No. 1, Op. 11, & both are wonderful performances, so I wouldn't want to rank one above the other:

--Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble, Serenade No. 1 (coupled with Wagner's Siegfried Idyll):

Brahms: Serenade No.1 in D Major, Op.11 - 6. Rondo (Allegro)

--Czech Nonet, Serenade No. 1 (coupled with Dvorak):
Serenade in D major, Op. 11 - Allegro molto

Among the orchestral versions, I'd most recommend hearing the following five recordings (or at least the top three on my list), even though I don't enjoy any of them quite as much as the two chamber versions mentioned above:

1. Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Philips:
2. Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic, DG
3. Sir Charles Mackerras, Scottish National Orchestra, Telarc
4. Kurt Masur, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Philips
5. Istvan Kertesz, London Symphony Orchestra, Decca
 

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Sir Adrian Boult's knack for knowing just how the music should "go" works wonders in the Brahms' serenades. Boult was a student of Hans Sitt, and deeply influenced by Artur Nikisch. As such, he was an inheritor of the conducting traditions of Wagner and Brahms, so I've always felt the warmth of his performances are more authentic than the leaner, more hard-edged approaches of Chailly and Abbado.

The EMI/Warner box of Boult's recordings "From Bach to Warner" gives insight into Boult as a "compleat conductor", rather than just an exponent of British music. Sadly, this box no longer seems available in Britain, although it's to be had from Amazon in the US and Canada. The box contains great Brahms symphonies, overtures and Janet Baker's Alto Rhapsody. Then there's an outstanding Schubert 9th, as well as Wagner orchestral music that's more warmly textured than Klemperer or Szell. Even the Bach Brandenburgs are worth a listen: hopelessly old fashioned, but Boult rounded up great soloists.

I haven't heard the Kertesz serenades, but I may pick them up based on other recommendations.
 

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I am not sure I ever heard a chamber scale reconstruction of the first but I have heard a rather "smallish" recording of the second by the Linos ensemble although it's been to long ago that I'd remember much about it. I know the first much better and think it is in its actual form a fully orchestral piece, at least in most movements (the menuet might be an exception). I am not fond enough of them to collect many versions but I have Kertesz, Spering (HIP on cpo) and Francis on cheapo Arte Nova and they are overall good enough for me. My favorite (#1 only and not the greatest sound, but early stereo) is Stokowski/MCA.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks to all who answered my call for pointers as to where to look for a recording to fill the hole in my collection - all comments were of great interest and have guided my listening during the past week.

Here are my conclusions:

The Serenades are early Brahms and after repeated sampling and listening my opinion is they aren't great Brahms, that being said there is enough to suggest one recording or even two wouldn't be out of place on the shelves. I found a lot of the recordings a bit sacchrine, admittedly a lot of that must be laid at the composers door, at times almost reminding me of the Viennese Strauss family (not an area of the repertoire I have any interest in).
I ended up enjoying the Kertesz recording for a 'mainstream' recording so I have added the Eloquence set with the complete symphonies to my wish list.
I did press the button on one recording which I fear may not be a choice many will endorse - Chailly with the Gewandhausorchester, frankly I find his propensity to keep things moving along at a fair clip in his more recent Brahms recordings benefited the Serenades, at least to my taste.

Thanks again.

Edit: to those who mention the Boult, Bach to Wagner box - I agree it is a very fine box which has been taken down from the shelf to be dipped into in the very near future.
 

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It's too long that I heard the 2nd serenade, a piece I don't know that well (but it seems to be more highly regarded than the 1st by many). I think the 2nd (similar to the 2nd movements of the g minor piano quartet and the 2nd piano concerto) and 3rd movement of op.11 are great Brahms and could have been part of a "0th" symphony but the first movement is obviously restrained along classical lines (echoes of Haydn's last symphony etc.) and mvmts 4-6 are lightweight as befits a serenade.
 

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3rd movement of op.11 are great Brahms and could have been part of a "0th" symphony but the first movement is obviously restrained along classical lines (echoes of Haydn's last symphony etc.) and mvmts 4-6 are lightweight as befits a serenade.
I'm not going to argue with anyone's view what is great Brahms and what is not, but I have a feeling stuff like that might be representing rather contradictory (and maybe opportunist) sides of his character. Brahms admired Wagner, but mistreated Wagner's followers. Also, considering Brahms ended up criticizing Beethoven (in terms of style of vertical harmony); it seems he could just as have criticized Haydn in a similar manner if his agenda called for it. All that "Neoclassicism" was a true sign of his genius, or attempts to "cover up" certain aspects of his creative powers? (just like your view on Bach's complex methods vs. his capabilities in dramatic music) It might be something that belongs in the realm of subjective opinion.
 
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