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May 27, 2013

Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3

“The second movement, with amorously entwining strings, and the third movement, with amiably interlacing winds, are gorgeously done. In fact, the orchestra as a whole, in addition to some exceptionally beautiful contributions from its principals, plays for Saraste as if charmed by some magic spell. And for the grand finale, conductor and orchestra pull out all the stops for one of the most electrifying codas to the symphony I’ve heard.

I listened to this performance three times, trying to understand the secret of its success, and the conclusion I came to is that, particularly in the first and last movements, Saraste grasps that the primal force in this score is rhythm. You really have to hear it to appreciate how expertly and precisely Saraste reads and elucidates Brahms’s complex rhythmic densities, intricacies, and convolutions. To quote from Alex Ross’s book, Listen to This : “Brahms’s secret weapon is rhythm.” I’d only add that in Saraste’s hands the secret is out.”

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