- Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
- Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
Jaap van Zweden and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra turn in technically assured, expressively nuanced, and sonically rich performances on this album of Johannes Brahms' "Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90," and the "Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98," so it's no wonder they have been reissued several times by Brilliant Classics, both singly and in box sets. One should not think, however, that these are the best performances available simply because of the frequency of releases, and beginners new to Brahms' symphonies would be well advised to seek out the truly great historic recordings by Toscanini, Furtwängler, or Walter, as well as some of the excellent modern renditions by Giulini, Abbado, and Bychkov, among others, before settling on a favorite. Certainly, van Zweden's earnest efforts should not be compared too closely or harshly with those of the maestros mentioned above, but he does a serviceable job of presenting these symphonies with mental clarity, musicality, and fidelity to the scores, and anyone who needs a good recording for study purposes will find this CD more than adequate and even quite attractive in the bargain. But van Zweden's emotional temperature is fairly cool, and he doesn't achieve great heights or depths in these performances, so they don't bring the full force of Brahms' profoundly Romantic expression across and instead feel a bit distanced and more intellectual than intuitive. The recorded sound is warm and full, though it is a little dense in spots where Brahms' orchestration is already somewhat opaque and in need of careful engineering.