- Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
- Tragic Overture, in D minor, Op. 81
- Academic Festival Overture, for orchestra in C minor ("Akademische Festouvertüre"), Op. 80
Thanks to her busy recording schedule with Naxos, most music lovers would probably identify conductor Marin Alsop as an American specialist. Her valuable multi-disc survey of Samuel Barber's works is now almost complete, and her discography also includes excellent recordings of Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass, Michael Daughtery, and John Adams. But Alsop resists being pigeonholed -- back in 2000, in an interview with Barnes & Noble.com, she asserted that she was "very anxious to be the first woman to record all the standard repertoire." Judging from this release, the first in a cycle of the Brahms symphonies, we'll all be the richer as she does so. Brahms's First is one of those repertory works that we tend to take for granted, a reliably satisfying symphonic meal. Alsop's approach is certainly no radical revision, but she animates the symphony with a refreshing spirit of discovery and a palpable sense of pleasure taken in the composer's creative invention. The overall sweep of the work is completely persuasive: Tempos, for example, invariably seem precisely right; her careful control of dynamics and transitions are masterful; and every melody seems molded with an astute sense of its place in the whole. The London Philharmonic plays beautifully for her, as they do also in the Tragic Overture and Academic Festival Overture. In sum, this is an auspicious beginning to what will likely be the first great Brahms cycle of the 21st century.