Album review: Brahms/John Axelrod, Brahms Beloved Telarc

 

Unfulfilled passion for Clara Schumann underpinned Brahms’s four symphonies, believes conductor and also, here, piano accompanist Axelrod.

This two-CD set aims to relate the moods of Symphonies No 4 and 2 to Brahms’s muse’s own lieder, 10 of which are performed. The idea seems to be working better on paper than on the ear until Nicole Cabell’s five ravishing songs following the Symphony No 2, which Axelrod characterises as being about youthful urgency. The Fourth, with its “dark questing intensity” and orchestral playing that is more heavyweight than heavenly, is paired with songs performed by Indra Thomas. But why go to all this trouble then make the listener download the lyrics and translations from various sites?

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