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Guy Weatherall
Classical Music, September 2019

This release marks the start of a Brahms cycle from this fine orchestra and its relatively recent principal conductor, and these are vibrant, gutsy readings of the two ‘pre-symphonies’. The resonant recording emphasises that very gutsiness, sometimes at the expense of subtlety and freshness, but there is no denying the power of these readings. In fact that momentum suits the less well-known second serenade, which comes across as the more memorable. © 2019 Classical Music

David Hurwitz, September 2017

…it plays very well for Jaime Martín, who offers extremely vivid and persuasive interpretations. In the First Serenade, he lets the trumpets and horns sing out boldly in the outer movements, while the strings really dig into their rustic bagpipe drones in the second scherzo. The problematic Adagio, relatively swift, also flows expressively. In short, Martín relishes the colorful scoring and movement-to-movement contrasts.

The Second Serenade, though shorter, was the work in which Brahms learned how to exploit the coloristic charms of the woodwind section. …the comparisons don’t always favor the Gävle players, good as they are, but Martín compensates with an unusually forthright and positive interpretation. The first Scherzo is just delicious, and the closing Rondo, with its perky piccolo writing, couldn’t be more charming. Martín’s lively tempos truly cheat the clock, while excellent sonics round off an extremely appealing disc. © 2017 Read complete review

Richard A. Kaplan
Fanfare, September 2017

These are big-boned readings of Brahms’s two early serenades. Sweden’s Gävle Symphony is 52-strong but sounds larger in Ondine’s recording. Tempos are on the moderate-to-swift side.

Recommended. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Des Hutchinson
MusicWeb International, August 2017

…the Gävle Symphony Orchestra under Jaime Martín give refreshing and well recorded accounts of the Brahms serenades. The competition can’t be ignored, and for some these performances, especially of the First Serenade, may seem a little scaled-down. But if nothing else, they win on sheer charm. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Steven Kruger
Fanfare, July 2017

This new version of the serenades by Spanish conductor Jaime Martín and his 52-member-strong Gävle Symphony avoids all the elephantine pitfalls and delivers both pieces with a lovely sense of lift, grace, and serenity. Martín’s tempos are the usual ones, but his sense of texture is unerring. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Huntley Dent
Fanfare, July 2017

Aided by beautiful, natural recorded sound, the present reading of Serenade No. 1 displays boundless cheer without resorting to the superficial excitement of too-fast reading… Martín finds enough momentum at 43 minutes. I felt that all eight movements were paced with an instinctive feeling for matching mood and tempo. The woodwind parts are infectiously played; the horns call out with romping enthusiasm.

Martín looks in the opposite direction in a reading [of Serenade No. 2] almost Mozartean in its mixture of entertainment and beauty. I expected not to be convinced, but the central Adagio non troppo, where wistfulness and sadness are indistinguishable, is handled with genuine Romantic feeling—clearly Martín conducts the music from the inside,…The Quasi menuetto fourth movement is quite graceful; its halting two-note mottos can be tricky rhythmically. The Allegro movements at the beginning and end are joyously done, bringing truth to the program note’s claim that the Gävle musicians “are driven by an undeniable and heartfelt passion for music.”

So, a delightful listening experience that leads to a warm recommendation. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide, July 2017

If you prefer faster tempos and have long disdained the serenades as thick and sluggish, you should try this recording. The sound is beautiful, the conductor lively. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, June 2017

Jaime Martin conducts the Gävle Symphony Orchestra of Sweden in thrilling performances of Johannes Brahms’ two Serenades. …Martin, a Spaniard who first gained renown as a flutist before turning to the podium as a second career, uses his knowledge of woodwinds to good effect in bringing out the expressive writing for the winds that distinguishes both works. © 2017 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Peter Quantrill
Gramophone, May 2017

Jaime Martín is not seeking (or at least does not find) hidden depths in the Adagio, which flows in unaffected fashion at a tempo that makes better sense of the double-dotted lilt to the accompaniment than the thickly insistent tread of Abbado’s first recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. The Stockholm Philharmonic and Andrew Davis show that the movement can work its magic at an even swifter tempo if the playing is truly quiet and tender.

Martín pays heed to the non troppo part of the following Adagio passacaglia and, like Davis, throws light on any number of reference points—backwards to Beethoven and Schumann, and forwards to Brahms’s own, more symphonically developed works (including the piano concertos). It’s a disc to raise the spirits. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone, April 2017

Certainly there is warmth to the performance, but it is offered in the context of this work’s stylistic homage to the past… The scale of this serenade is that of a Haydn symphony rather than that of one from the Romantic era, with the darker sound palette mixing intriguingly with the comparatively small orchestra. These are very fine performances in themselves—and are illuminating in the way they can help listeners look ahead to the symphonies that Brahms was to compose in later years. © 2017 Read complete review

David Mellor
Classic FM, March 2017

The British-based Spanish flautist and conductor Jamie Martin has been associated with this Swedish Orchestra for four years now, and they play very well for him, on a most enticing 72-minute issue. © 2017 Classic FM Read complete review

Robert Hugill
Planet Hugill, March 2017

Jaime Martin and the orchestra bring out the vivid contrasts in the music, and giving us a sense of Brahms’ youthful vigour. …What I liked about the performance was the way we get a very real sense of the orchestra’s particular sound, with a lively but small-ish string section and the fine wind players to the fore, often with characterfully pungent tone. © 2017 Planet Hugill Read complete review

Fiona Maddocks
The Guardian, March 2017

Anyone who champions Brahms’s gloriously eccentric, lyrical and capacious Serenades—No 1 in D with six movements, No 2 in A with five—deserves full attention. Here they get it. Jaime Martín was chiefly a flautist until switching careers to full-time conducting in 2013. He gets three big pictures on this CD—the first in a series of Brahms recording with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra—whereas Brahms has only one, scarcely bigger than a postage stamp. Despite occasional thickening of textures, there’s some lovely playing, with warm woodwind and horns and nice, crisp syncopations. Martín does not allow the tempi to drag: important in works that need to be kept agile and alert to reveal their special charm. © 2017 The Guardian

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2017

Such is the popularity of the composer’s four symphonies, they have practically removed his two youthful Serenades from the popular concert hall repertoire. Both were written at the close of the 1850’s when Johannes Brahms was employed at the Court in Detmold, the work we know as his First Serenade being a reworking and extension of an earlier score. Published in 1860, it is in the unusual format of six movements, the fourth then subdivided into three, its light and pleasing atmosphere generated by having two scherzos and two minuets. Though more extended than any of his four symphonies, it is a format that leaves the work short of the gravitas and drama audiences enjoy in his symphonies. That said, the work uses a standard modern symphony orchestra, and owes a great deal to the influences that Robert Schumann brought to the young composer, particularly in the way he made frequent use of solo instruments in long flowing passages. The Second Serenade is much shorter in length and scored for chamber orchestra, but retained something of the unusual form by employing five movements, this time omitting one of the scherzos. The Gävle Symphony Orchestra’s, principal conductor, Jamie Martin, strikes a happy balance in the very differing orchestral weight of the two works, the playing of the solo sections is immaculate, even when the engineers get the balance wrong, the bassoon overly close in the First Serenade’s second minuet. Highly recommended. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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