Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhaus Orchestra take another significant step in an extraordinary musical journey with the release of the two Brahms Serenades. The Serenades have been unjustly neglected and are rarely heard in concert, making them perfect repertoire for Chailly’s enquiring mind. Widely respected as a conductor with a “rare talent for transforming music ripe for rediscovery” (Gramophone), his reading of the Serenades fits with his philosophy that “all music must aspire to be ‘new music’ again”. The recording follows Chailly’s multi-award-winning sets of the Brahms and Beethoven symphonies.
Chailly’s radical approach to the symphonies produced a recording of “trademark clarity” according to Gramophone, which made the set its “Record of the Year 2014”. It also won aBBC Music Magazine Award, the jury commenting: “Chailly combines fiery athleticism with the warmly blended tonalities of the wonderful Leipzig orchestra. The results tingle with immediacy and a pulsating sense of momentum.” Now Chailly brings the same questing spirit to the Serenades. The release highlights the importance of this repertoire in Brahms’s evolution as a composer and orchestrator, making a significant statement and allowing the Serenades to emerge from the shadow of the symphonies. Newly reassessed as substantial masterworks in their own right, they show Brahms in an unexpected light: the Op. 11 offering “a brightness, waggishness and humour that would later become rare in Brahms,” in the words of musicologist Peter Korfmacher, while the Op. 16 Serenade is exotically scored for just wind and lower strings, creating a sense of pleasant shade rather than darkness. With playing that is multifaceted, multi-coloured light and delicate. “The double-bass jokes can generate their wit, the music swings, and the colours glow,” says Chailly.
With his extraordinary attention to detail and keen ear for musical nuance, Riccardo Chailly really gets to the heart of this richly rewarding music. This is the first Decca recording of these works since István Kertész recorded them in 1968. It is a worthy successor to another great Brahmsian and a historic recording which will bring new life to concert-hall rarities that are ripe for rediscovery.
“For an orchestra as steeped in the Austro-German tradition as the Gewandhaus is, playing Brahms has always been part of its raison d’être. But Chailly brings a different perspective: as with Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Mahler, his approach is both mindful of the performing traditions and critical of them in the best, most constructive way. His Brahms is neither massive nor self-consciously sculpted, but still totally coherent.” (The Guardian)