Arts and Entertainment

Last autumn Helene Grimaud released a fine recording of Brahms’ piano concertos under the baton of Andris Nelsons: to hear them perform the second concerto live with the Philharmonia Orchestra was to realise anew what a superb symbiosis they can achieve.

Album: Brahms, Symphony No 1/Variations... (Channel Classics)

Lest there be any confusion over how Ivan Fischer views Brahms, this disc begins with his highly spiced, string orchestra arrangement of Hungarian Dance No 14.

Album: Brahms, Symphonies 1-4/Simon Rattle (EMI Classics)

Honeymoon period and local backlash behind him, Rattle can still produce startling results with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Album: Brahms, Symphony No 3 / Choral Works (Soli Deo Gloria)

Odd in the extreme when heard live, the super-sweet timbre of The Monteverdi Choir's high tenors and sopranos is sublime in this recording from two performances in Paris and London.

Album: Brahms, The String Quartets/Nash Ensemble, (ONYX)

Uninspired by his sketches for a Fifth and Sixth Symphony, Brahms intended the G-major Quintet to be his last work. A vibrant synthesis of Magyar snap, Baroque figures and Bohemian lyricism, it is played like a miniature string symphony in this recording from the Nash Ensemble. There's a wonderful physicality to their sound: the violins intensely sweet, the violas pungent, the single cello limber and long-legged. The Schubertian F-major Quintet is a technical tour de force, again beautifully played.

Album: Brahms/Korngold, Violin Concertos – Znaider/Gergiev/ Wiener Phil, (RCA)

Brahms tasteful, Korngold vulgar, right? Not in this recording. Soloist Nikolaj Znaider's meticulously judged vibrato glows through the poignant Romance of Korngold's Violin Concerto while Valéry Gergiev works his quivering magic with the Wiener Philharmoniker.

Observations: Nikolaj Znaider adds another string to his bow

The London Symphony Orchestra's Artist Focus series couldn't have picked a better guest star than Nikolaj Znaider. Currently in the swing of the intensive residency, the Danish-born musician, 33, is the violinist of the moment. Tall, imposing, classically handsome, he cuts a tremendous dash on the concert platform, playing the 1741 Guarneri del Gesù violin that once belonged to the great Fritz Kreisler. But for this James Bond of the violin, the world is not enough.

London Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus/Nezet-Seguin, Royal Festival Hall, London

Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem should be mandatory for anyone (and there are many) who has ever uttered a disparaging or ill-considered word against its composer. Under the conspicuously talented Yannick Nezet-Seguin, it shone, it thundered, it inspired all-enveloping awe and consolation.

London Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus/ Nezet-Seguin, Royal Festival Hall, London

Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem should be mandatory for anyone (and there are many) who has ever uttered a disparaging or ill-considered word against its composer.

Album: Arcanto Quartet, Brahms: String Quartet No 1, Op 51; Piano Quintet, Op 34 (Harmonia Mundi)

Brahms was apparently so petrified of comparisons with Beethoven's achievements in the form that he destroyed the 20 or so string quartets he composed as a youth before finally, having turned 40, conquering his fears with the String Quartet No 1, Op 51, whose fastidious melancholy is expertly realised here.

Hagen Quartet/ Uchida, Wigmore Hall

Who would have imagined that one could experience a kinship of sorts between string quartets by Mozart and Bartok written over a century apart?

The Brothers Karamazov, Barbican, London

It's a brave (or foolhardy) man who dares to make an opera of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Throughout the long first act of Alexander Smelkov and Yury Dimitrin's adaptation for the Mariinsky Theatre, the effect was a little like speed-reading it while under the influence. If you didn't know the novel at all, the seemingly reckless dash of the narrative, the dislocation of characters and ideas, will have left you feeling marooned in some grand farce. To some extent, Dostoyevsky's last novel is just that – the anatomy of a chaotic society and the human conditions driving it. But still I wonder if the composer and his librettist have got the balance right between the grimly ironic and the tragic?

Can the Manning brothers add some Liverpudlian sparkle to their new, Wagamama-style noodle bar?

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