<< -- 4 -- Bill Newman TOWARDS AND BEYOND THE MIGHTY EIGHTH
The silhouette of Bruckner arriving in heaven, bowing humbly before the
grateful Master of Bayreuth, marks the ultimate reward of his endless labours.
I am always captivated by that opening theme and its answering subject,
its work-out, and the following two movements. Somehow, the final movement
remains cumbersome, with the sliding, echoed scale motive that interrupts
the flow at times, always sounding slightly bizarre, a conscious attempt
to link the previous subject to the next, that obtrudes into the text.
Knappertsbusch, in a 1962 live broadcast with the NDR-Sinfoneorchester,
Hamburg, literally goes for the jugular, hurling the crude banality of the
music's protest with its discordant message into stark relief. Elsewhere,
the poignant undercurrent of growing mystery that pervades other movements
is treated objectively albeit with doubtful ensemble in places absolute
in intent, minus any degree of beautous phrasing to stress Bruckner's struggle
to master symphonic cohesion. This is how this work should sound. Smooth
down the responses and the message is lost.
Despite allegiances to the final 1890 version that most conductors prefer,
the 1877 version is more rewarding for its richer scoring and extended ideas
that make better sense of that Finale. This was Horenstein's choice for
his Cheltenham Festival performance with the BBC Northern Orchestra, to
be released shortly on the BBC Legends label.
Symphony 4 is celebrated for its horn calls that turn into hunting motives
for the third movement. Its obvious beauties are the clear textures and
the expressive melodies and harmonies, where nobility and pastoral pastimes
go side by side.
Lower string sections take over the nostalgic slow movement, the music
worked up to a central climax by stages, returning to sadness and regret
for the coda. The wonderfully joyous third is the essence of high spirits
and camaraderie by all who enjoy the freedom of the open air and the sport
of life, while the stern stridency of the Finale's opening measures acts
as a warning that there is a seriousness to existence after all. This is
soon dispelled by the other themes that bring light and relief in their
stead. The central section restates the material with different innovations,
the whole building up architecturally into a resplendent coda, with the
horn calls repeated fortissimo at the close.
Copyright © 8 July 2001
Bill Newman, Spoleto, Italy
& Vision home
Libby Larsen >>