BRAHMS: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98; SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485 – BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Rudolf Kempe – BBC Legends

by | Oct 20, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98; SCHUBERT: Symphony
No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485 – BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Rudolf Kempe

BBC Legends  BBCL 4003-2,  70:02 (Distrib. Koch) ****:

Here is another of those splendid back-order BBC Legends recordings
that got away the first time around. Sir Thomas Beecham had
specifically indicated in 1960 that Rudolf Kempe (1910-1976) would
succeed him to the helm of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Kempe had
risen from the ranks as principal oboe player for the Gewandhaus
Orchestra under Bruno Walter. A master of the operatic repertory, Kempe
appeared in New York under the auspices of the “Visiting Orchestra”
Series, where I heard him and Heather Harper in a most effective
performance of the Four Last Songs of Strauss, another of Kempe’s
specialties, and to whose orchestral music Kempe devoted a large cycle
for EMI with the Dresden State Orchestra.

The Brahms Fourth from 18 February 1976 has all the electric, athletic
and valedictory power of the occasion: Kempe would pass away only a few
months later, in May 1976. Warmth, spaciousness, and an almost
voluptuous molding of the musical line characterize the reading where,
it would seem, the BBC winds, horns, and strings wished to exert
maximum efforts in tonal brilliance for their conductor. The sinewy,
albeit tragic, energy of the second movement fughetta, for instance,
reaches a Promethean climax, wherein horns, tympani, and strings
collaborate magnificently. The Allegro giocoso is a real scherzo, rough
and tumble. The finale manages to keep an elastic line between the
individual variants on the passacaglia theme without sacrificing the
forward momentum of the whole.  The richly hued Schubert Fifth
from 30 August 1974 proffers an expansive Andante con moto whose
leisures might compete with the Celibidache renditions of this
often-traversed score. The acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall are
resonant, even pungent, and the audience applause at the conclusion of
the Brahms will augment your own.

–Gary Lemco

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