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BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1; “Academic Festival” Overture;
“Tragic” Overture
Marin Alsop, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Also available on SACD and DVD-A

“Brahms that flows and sings” by Andrew Baer
Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 6th, 2005

With her debut Brahms CD, Marin Alsop offers a sumptuously lyrical rendition of the composer's First Symphony and two overtures. Principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony, lauded American music proponent and a famous Leonard Bernstein protégée, Alsop blends Romantic symphonic convention with the organic phrasing and transitions of a chamber musician. She summons a bright, singing sound from the London Philharmonic, and each gesture flows, yoga-like, into the next. Sturdy enough to serve as a Brahms primer, this rendition of the symphony can feel a little sensitive in slow spots for fans of Golden Age maestros. Relief exists in imposing accounts of the "Academic Festival" and "Tragic" overtures.

Review by Bernard Holland
The New York Times, Sunday, March 20th, 2005

To succeed on a grand scale in the United States, American conductors often need to pave their way in Europe. Marin Alsop is among the latest to find a good job abroad. Her career in America has been honorable, steady and various: anchored by a long tenure at the Colorado Symphony (not the most stable institution in recent years) and by visits to places like the Opera Theater of St. Louis, where she conducted John Adams's "Nixon in China" with great success last year.

But it has been in Britain, during the last few years, that Ms. Alsop has attracted attention. The Bournemouth Symphony took her on as principal conductor in 2002, and British audiences and critics have taken notice ever since. Here she records the Brahms First Symphony with the London Philharmonic for Naxos.

So ubiquitous is the piece that one more recording of it cannot really expect to say anything startling about Brahms that hundreds of others have not already said. So this is a recording, regardless of its original ambitions, that announces an emerging conductor's credentials in the standard German repertory.

In the famous dirgelike opening, Ms. Alsop wants our ears to put Brahms's pounding drums front and center. Elsewhere, she is not afraid of slow tempos at the composer's more brooding moments, and even at his most songful ones. Otherwise, we hear the Brahms symphony we know and love treated with respect, an appropriate sense of drama and at times even a little impetuosity.

Also here are the "Tragic Overture" and the "Academic Festival Overture." Both are well played by these excellent, hard-working musicians. With so many music-director jobs changing hands at American orchestras these days, Ms. Alsop will probably look westward out of the corner of her eye while enjoying her European success.

Review by Andrew Druckenbrod
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, March 11th, 2005

If you want another crack at listening to or deciphering the subtext of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 after the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's performance under Charles Dutoit last weekend (see my review,, here's a worthy new addition.

Conductor Marin Alsop and the London Phil offer a fresh, rounded and energetic reading of this monumental work. The opening introduction sounds the equivalent of looking into a cloudy crystal ball -- unclear yet definitely foreboding -- but Alsop marvelously caresses the second theme. In fact, the entire reading harbors less of an edge than we often hear, but is no less weighty. That's because the substance the architect Brahms' comes from, managing the tempos and the structural hypermeter of the piece, which Alsop does exceptionally, especially in the drawing out of the horn melody of the fourth movement and in the subtle acceleration of the end of its main theme.

The disc also contains impressive interpretations of Brahms' "Tragic" and "Academic" overtures.

Review by Melinda Bargreen
The Seattle Times, Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

Cello fans will already have marked their calendars for the April 21-23 arrival of the gifted Truls Mørk in Benaroya Hall.

But there is another reason to cheer. Conductor Marin Alsop, a woman who is making her mark in increasingly high places, will be there to lead the cellist and the Seattle Symphony in performances of Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

On this disc for the Naxos label, where she has been much featured, Alsop leads the excellent London Philharmonic Orchestra in a disc of Brahms: the magisterial Symphony No. 1, plus the "Tragic" Overture and the "Academic Festival" Overture. These are deft, spirited performances that bring out the grandeur of the music but also its complexities and inner voices. Brava.


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