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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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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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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)
You still have not understood that your continous cherry picking leads you astray yourself. You pick one small critical remark by Brahms and ignore the overwhelming dominating influence by Beethoven, maybe because the latter is taken for granted anyway, so you overstress 1% vs. 99%.
It's uncontroversial that early Brahms and especially the serenades are strongly classicist pieces, it's what he dared to write when he didn't dare writing real symphonies. It's also not about personal admiration, more like demonstrating that one knows the craft and the classics. The first movement of op.11 almost quotes (in fact many people take it as a quote) the finale of Haydn's 104, the 5th movement is roughly a combination of the scherzi from Beethoven's septet and 2nd symphony and the menuet sounds like from Schubert's octet to me.
Regardless of specific allusions it's obvious that Brahms was treading carefully and mostly staying within a very conservative classical framework. I cannot "prove" (not even sure how one could do this) that mvmts 2+3 are more original and "Brahmsian" but it is fairly obvious to me if one is familiar with his style, it's the mood, the sound, like the first scherzo is subdued and lively at the same time etc. It's not found by cherrypicking, though, one needs a more holistic approach.
 
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