The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.
New Year’s Eve Concert 1996 – Dances and Gypsy Tunes The fascinating Russian virtuoso violinist, Maxim Vengerov (winner of the Echo Klassik) lends radiance to the gala performance under the baton of Claudio Abbado. Johannes Brahms’Hungarian Dances and Gipsy Songs; Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane and La Valse and Hector Berlioz’s Hungarian March make this New Year’s Eve with the Berliner Philharmoniker unforgettable. New Year’s Eve Concert 1997 – A Tribute to Carmen The program of the Berlin Philharmonic bore the title «Dances of Life, Love, and Death», and it was hardly coincidental that it was meant as an homage to Carmen. The recording of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s traditional New Year’s Eve Concert, conducted by Claudio Abbado, offers not only a cross section of worldfamous melodies from George Bizet’s opera, but also famous dance music that was intensely or subtly influenced by it.
This last installment in Claudio Abbado's fine Brahms cycle has the same virtues as the previous recordings: excellent playing, fine recording, and an intensely lyrical response to the music that never precludes a healthy dose of energy where required. The high point of the cycle is the Third Symphony, followed by the Second. If you have those and wish to collect the others, they are not far behind in quality and you can buy this disc (and the one with the First Symphony) with complete confidence. The couplings are also very well done. –David Hurwitz
“Abbado’s approach to Brahms is generally direct, but his control of rhythm and phrase makes the performance instantly compelling” – The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs