C1926. MAX FIEDLER Cond. Berlin Phil.: Symphony #2 in d; Symphony #4 in e; Academic Festival Overture (all Brahms). (England) 2-Beulah 1-2PD18, recorded 1929 & 1931, Polydor. Long out-of-print, Final Copy!
“Like his near contemporary Fritz Steinbach, whose conducting the composer specially approved, Max Fiedler was a famous Brahmsian. Alas, Steinbach died in 1916 at the age of 61, leaving behind him disciples (Toscanini, among others) but no recordings. Fiedler, by contrast, died a few weeks before his 80th birthday, leaving behind revered recordings of the Second and Fourth Symphonies, recordings which have long been of absorbing interest to students of Brahms interpretation as well as to students of late 19th-century performance practice. In this sense, no Brahms library can properly be said to be complete without them.
The interest of these performances lies first and foremost - not to mention finally and most importantly - in the tempos: in the way they are chosen, established, and shrewdly modified by Fiedler in the course of performances which so interestingly live, move and have their being. There are other points of interest. The nature of the use of string portamentos: in the case of Fiedler and the Berlin Philharmonic, the selective and highly discriminating use of it. But it is tempo which is of paramount interest.
- Richard Osborne, GRAMOPHONE, Nov., 2000
“Max Fiedler (1859-1939) was much associated with Hamburg, Brahms' birthplace. He knew Brahms (1833-1897) who also attended Max Fiedler's performances of the Brahms symphonies. I have no information on whether Brahms endorsed Fiedler's interpretations or bearing in mind that these were recorded 33 years after Brahms death whether Fiedler's interpretations changed over the years. It does however make the recordings more of a 'dokumente' because they are directed by a conductor who was a contemporary and close contact with Brahms.
The Overture is brisk and business-like with some passion worked up in the more strenuous moments. An elegance and grace pervades Fiedler's reading of the sunny second symphony. Fiedler plays nothing routinely. Every phrase seems pointed and moulded. The gaunt scarifying brass at 6.00 in the first movement are a case in point suggesting a much darker world than we usually associate with this work. The allegretto grazioso is fleet-footed - almost Mendelssohnian and the second movement is serenity itself suggesting an affinity Elgar's ‘Nimrod’. A vaulting majesty characterises Fiedler's Brahms 4 and is well worth experiencing. The breadth of the brass figure at the start of the second movement takes some getting used to but the headlong exultation of Allegro giocoso banishes doubts. The gaunt and tortured atmosphere of the finale is abruptly and mysteriously conveyed linking to the Tragic Overture and the dark brass in the first movement of the second symphony. Fielder does not lack for dramatic motivation.
These historic recordings will be highly prized by Brahms and Fiedler enthusiasts. “
- Rob Barnett, MusicWebInternational