There's no room for the 'usual jubilation' in Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra's Brahms, but Gavin Plumley still finds plenty to rejoice about.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra has unique gifts. Its players can both radiate honeyed warmth and imbue their performances with something more fiery. It is the former that shines through in this new recording of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony.
The performance’s elegiac introspection proves truly captivating, not least in the lilting phrases and throbs of the opening movement. Not for Iván Fischer the pressing Romanticism of Riccardo Chailly’s recent recording with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. And yet Fischer and his Budapesters never become ponderous in this caring account of Brahms’s bronzed autumnal Allegro non troppo, nor indeed in the melancholy Andante that follows.
Those hungering for flashier displays are given a real treat in the third movement, with its boisterous tuttis and punchy rhetoric. At first it seems the Finale’s grand passacaglia will have the same sense of purpose, but here Fischer’s rubatos and pacing become a little self-absorbed, the orchestra’s burnished sound notwithstanding. In his liner notes, the conductor insists that ‘there is no room for the usual jubilation’ – a claim supported by his unflashy selection from Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. But by insisting on such a plaintive approach, Fischer and his players underplay the resilience that lurks beneath the surface of this outwardly tragic conclusion to Brahms’s great symphonic project.