Finely played, ultimately undistinctive
Bychkov's Brahms cycle improves as it goes along. Throughout, the playing of the Cologne orchestra is always very good and attuned to the idiom, and the sound is also very good, being full, spacious and well-balanced. The performance of no 1 never less than good and solid. However, it does not really take off. Bychkov’s no 2 is sane and solid, but it is too earthbound – the first movement (with repeat) seems to go on for far too long, and the final movement is a tad dull. Bychkov produces a surprisingly good recording of the third. There are no interpretative tricks and this is a very good standard version, if hardly individual enough to be an absolute front-runner. Bychkov’s fourth is yet another very good performance. Again, the interpretation itself is hardly distinctive but the performance is recommendable for its idiomatic feeling and lack of egocentricity.