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I learnt my appreciation of Bruckner during the mid-fifties when the late Robert Simpson gave lectures at London's Guildhall School of Music with supporting performances from a student orchestra under the direction of Bryan Fairfax.

He later broadcast a comparative review of three recorded versions of Bruckner 8 -- Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI), Van Beinum with the Royal Concertgebouw (Philips), and Mavinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic (Melodiya). Totally different in concept overall pulse, instrumental timbres, phrasing, psychological insights each revealed the personality styles of three major conductors imparting their realization of one of the most complex works in the romantic repertoire. After examining these factors with recorded extracts, Fairfax declared it a draw!

Before the appearance of these recordings, a justly praised Bruckner Eight by Jascha Horenstein, along with the Ninth had appeared on the Vox label, but Furtwängler's four versions with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic were not yet commercially available.

Horenstein, however, was busy making his London reputation performing Bruckner at the Royal Festival Hall to great acclaim, while there were 78rpm recordings of a few symphonies by other maestros, they were of mostly connoisseur interest then, but enough to awaken serious appreciation.

Bruckner's Fourth The Romantic with Edvard van Beinum (I believe with the London Philharmonic Orchestra) heard on the BBC Home Service in my teens was love at first hearing! A recent CD (live relay) on Audiophile Classics by the Dutchman with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra amplifies those youthful impressions.

If I felt I needed further confirmation, C B Rees, the BBC's beloved Music Correspondent, told me that he had always placed Bruckner above Mahler in his affections.

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Copyright © 8 July 2001 Bill Newman, Spoleto, Italy




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