I used to have the 2nd and 3rd symphonies from the Sanderling/Dresden set and couldn't tell what all the fuss was about. It gets cited often as a great set, but those two recordings were nothing special IMO. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with them, but with such high expectations, I found them rather unspectacular.
I've had mixed luck with Mengelberg's Brahms. I guess he's like Furtwangler in that you need to know exactly which performances to get, because there are multiple ones of many of the major symphonies and some are much better than others. I agree that the third on Naxos Historical is a good one though.
rogch wrote:I consider the Berlin Philharmonic the orchestra when it comes to Brahms symphonies. Not only do they have a long tradition with these works, they have also presented quite different interpretations: Furtwängler, Karajan, Jochum, Abbado and Harnoncourt have all played Brahms with the Berlin PO.
I share the enthusiasm for some of the old masters like Furtwängler, Toscanini and Reiner. But Claudio Abbado's recordings surely deserve to be mentioned too? They are on four full-prize CDs, but some of the fillers are very interesting (apart from the standard overtures and Haydn variations there are some terrific vocal works).
I have not heard the set with Kurt Sanderling and the Staatskapelle Dresden, but would i would be surprised if that was not a great set.
If you have a set with modern sound quality it is of course easier to accept the more limited sound quality on older recordings where the artistic qualities can be unique. Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra on Naxos historical gives excellent value for money. But that is unfortunately not available for sale in the US, but you can order over the internet i assume.