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A select overview of major Bruckner Symphonies
and interpreters on disc, by BILL NEWMAN
(with special reference to a rare recording by Rudolf Kempe)


<< Continued from last week

Simpson's lecture guide lines for Symphony 5 had already prepared my ears for Bruckner's whole new, extended development of thematic material and key relationships on a vast scale. This masterly work, difficult to grasp at first but growing in comprehension with repeated hearings, acts as a pivot to the remaining four symphonies.

Immense paragraphs balanced by daring contrasts in harmonies and ideas eventually find a triumphant apotheosis following eternal struggles in the opening movement, and reaffirmation of faith in the next. The Scherzo is the longest movement Bruckner wrote, propulsive in its rhythmic thrust, while his allegiance to the Finale of Beethoven's Ninth occurs when he hearkens back to earlier themes in fragmentary state during the last movement's introduction. After reminding listeners of his devout simplicity, he then plunges headlong into a complex treatment of the development. The closing pages represent a resolution of majestic achievement.

As if to give credence to Furtwängler's epic if somewhat wayward live recording (EMI), Jochum and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon -- more so than in the later Dresden Staaskapelle remake (EMI) -- reveal the measure of his inspiration, the resplendency of the brass in climaxes leaving one breathless with excitement.

Heinz Rögner and the Berlin Radio Symphony are dramatic, fleeting by comparison (Eterna -- Berlin Classics). Finely etched, focused, and a full eight minutes faster, they cannot quite catch that feeling of sustained mystery and rapt contemplation achieved by their Bavarian counterparts.

Günter Wand and the North German Symphony Orchestra are also magnificent (RCA). A particular BBC Symphony Prom performance showed scrupulous attention to every phrase and dynamic. Wand is rightly regarded the leading Bruckner interpreter at present.

An earlier BBC performance by Horenstein (BBC Legends) still registers my opinion of him as my choice from the generation before.

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Copyright © 15 July 2001 Bill Newman, Spoleto, Italy




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