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To follow this gentle flowing movement with a slower one, that interplays major-minor sequences of burnished intensity in long stretches, may appear to have deliberately courted disaster. It comes off brilliantly, interlinked with two climaxes that display their full complement of grandeur. The second should preferably be minus the cymbal crash and timpani, but the effect is still startling. In the closing stages winds, then high strings, trace a heart-aching melody linked to the death of Wagner, the quietness of the main theme in the brass at the close suddenly advanced into the major key.

Carl Schuricht in a 1938 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (Dante Lys/Iron Needle) is unique throughout, with soft, singing strings and portamenti touches, exactly catching the mood. Otto Klemperer is guilty of taking the second subject at the same speed as the first. It should be slightly faster!

Contrast Brahms in the first two movements of his Fourth Symphony, with its faster pulse and tighter structural writing. Legato for the most part, staccato accented and dramatic elsewhere. Despite radical differences in composing technique there is a fascinating parallel with Bruckner's extended phraseology and elevations of mood requiring almost twice the length and time span.

Sir John Barbirolli in rehearsal with the Hallé Orchestra, with subtly weighted accents on the first beat of each note group in the strings, is not to be ignored. Here is an object lesson in how to create the correct lightness and atmosphere for the Scherzo movement. Again, Bruckner advances his tonal phrases upwards, an Austrian trait that delights the senses with rumbustious feelings. The Trio section is equally delectable.

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Copyright © 15 July 2001 Bill Newman, Spoleto, Italy




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