&ldquoAs Alsop faced the cellos and drew from them the most tremendously shaped phrases with every inflection of her baton, you were aware of being in the presence of greatness.&rdquo

Brahms: Symphony No. 4

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Naxos 8.570233
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Here it is: the final release in the set of Brahms symphonies from Marin Alsop with the London Philharmonic. Previous reviews have praised just about every aspect of this new Naxos cycle, and while I admit to arriving somewhat late on the scene I have to admit that all expectations are realised.

Marin Alsop’s tempi are measured and sustained in what seems to me an ideal way in this symphony. The first movement seems at first urbane and restrained, but the ceiling is set high, and there is plenty of room for bite and drama in the music – never hurried or unstable, but with a gloss of perfect preparation which seems to allow the listener to plunge directly and deeply into Brahms’ inspired vision. The same is true of the second Andante moderato movement, in which the winds initially shine with lush resonance.

The final movement brings back the measured, sustained feel of the first, but with that extra turbulence, and those quicksilver touches of detail in the orchestration pointed subtly and superbly by all concerned in this recording.



The LPO, London’s finest Brahms ensemble, has been in vintage form during this cycle under Marin Alsop’s measured and thoughtful direction.

Alsop’s reading of the Fourth Symphony is not dissimilar to Sir Adrian Boult’s 1972 LPO recording (EMI—nla). Like Boult, Alsop is happy to establish a tempo and emotional trajectory for each movement and leave it at that—a plausible view given the astonishing degree of thematic integration that underpins the work.

Richard osborne, gramophone