<< -- 3 -- Bill Newman TOWARDS AND BEYOND THE MIGHTY EIGHTH
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.
Copyright © 15 July 2001
Bill Newman, Spoleto, Italy
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