- Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
- Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
- Academic Festival Overture, for orchestra in C minor ("Akademische Festouvertüre"), Op. 80
- Tragic Overture, in D minor, Op. 81
- Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
- Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
- Variations on a Theme of Haydn for orchestra in B flat major (St. Anthony Variations), Op. 56a
One might expect Andrew Manze's interpretations of Johannes Brahms' four symphonies to adhere to ideas of the movement for historically informed performance practice, due to his scholarship and dedication to authenticity in his early music performances. However, and somewhat paradoxically, he and the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra have delivered more or less mainstream readings on modern instruments; there are no signs of late 19th century woodwind or brass timbres, and the strings play with standard vibrato. Yet Manze's historical fact finding has gone to a deeper level than just replicating instrumentation or orchestral scale, and he has found numerous clues to Brahms' intentions in the composer's transcriptions of the symphonies for two pianos, which often vary with the published orchestral scores in accentuation, tempo indications, and phrasing. These are fine points that can be discerned with careful listening and great familiarity with many other recordings of the symphonies, both conventional and historic, but they may not be the main thing listeners will consider in appreciating this set. The playing and the recording quality are up to the extraordinarily high levels set by CPO in all its releases, and these resilient works sound as good as they ever did under any other conductor. Indeed, it's difficult to tell where Manze has discovered much that's novel, though the most obvious example would be the steadily brisk tempo he maintains throughout the Finale of the "Symphony No. 1," not slowing down for the big theme as has become customary. With equally fine versions of the "Haydn Variations," the "Tragic Overture," and the "Academic Festival Overture," this is a classic presentation that will please connoisseurs and casual listeners alike, without causing any controversy.