‘Clarity’ in Honeck’s new Brahms recording makes it a 2021 standout

Reference Recordings

Retired CPR Classical host Richard Ray can’t stop listening to, loving on and sharing about classical music, especially when he falls for a new recording.

I invited him to share (below) about his latest favorite: The Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Music Director, Manfred Honeck | Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 & James MacMillan’s Larghetto for Orchestra, composed to celebrate Honeck’s 10th anniversary as Music Director (premiered in concert in 2017).

~ Monika Vischer, CPR Classical Program Director

By Richard Ray, CPR Classical Contributor

Does someone who already owns four different recordings of Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 really need another?


I’ll leave it to others to describe the technical details of tempo, phrasing and articulation. I’ll just say there’s magic happening here that makes this old favorite (premiered in 1885) sound nearly brand new. In large part it boils down to one word: Clarity.

Many Brahms recordings sound like a swirling mass of melodies rumbling around in a sea of bass frequencies. Majestic but a whole lotta beauty lost in the mix.

Somehow, Pittsburgh Symphony Music Director Manfed Honeck creates an environment that allows you to hear way down into the recording, with a whole world of small details you never knew existed. Brahms was such a master craftsman, and this - especially the fourth movement - was his ultimate creation and symphonic swan song.

It’s a stunning performance and worthy addition to any Brahms collection. The world premiere recording of James MacMillan’s Larghetto for Orchestra is another eloquent surprise that boosts this even further up my list of favorite new recordings for 2021.

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