TOWARDS AND BEYOND THE MIGHTY EIGHTH
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
Dotted and half-notes abound throughout the Finale, the first movement's
main subject almost transformed into stilted variation format. I relish
the composer's ploy of slowing it down later, forcing the theme out in stentorian
fashion and moving strings and brass chords higher up the stave. This acts
as a wonderful foil to the modal hymn tune with plucked strings in the bass
attempting to calm matters down. The atmosphere is joyful, almost satirical
and whimsical when the music returns in faster speed episodes, but the end
of the symphony is proud and defiant, a shortened, far more positive outcome
to the coda of the first movement.
Jochum is in his element during this movement, with tiny inflections
of beat quickening the impulses, broadening measures during the slurred
replies, and widening the dynamic range for passages containing sturm
I also admire Karajan in this symphony, but a Royal Festival Hall performance
with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra showed the silky sheen of the strings
to better advantage than readings with the Berlin Philharmonic. A DG recording
with the VPO proves how pliant a conductor accused of hedonistic attitudes
became away from Berlin.
Quite unique in overall attitude is the late, lamented Sergiu Celibidache
with the Munich Philharmonic and Stuttgart Radio orchestras. A Sony music
video shows his controlled mastery at much slower speeds than normal, with
colossal attention to line and detail. Oswald Kabasta's historic Munich
performance (Lys/EMI) is lighter in textures, but wonderfully balanced.
I hope that BBC Legends will be releasing Tennstedt's live LPO performances.
Like Tennstedt, another conductor who was only granted late recognition
for his genius is Georg Tintner, who made a complete cycle with the Royal
Scottish Orchestra for Naxos, inspiring them to considerable heights. Having
completed the task he departed this life leaving one of the most revealing
of documents, with occasional variants from chosen editions for posterity
to consider and admire. His No 7 shines forth in nobility.
The Seventh is couched in a recognisable language that encompasses Bruckner's
beliefs and compels audience attention through the transparency of its overall
expressiveness. No 8 sets out in a new direction to resolve enormous conflicts
firmly implanted in the composer's mind, followed by a transitory movement
of furious interplay where demons attempt to swing his conscience away from
the rightful path of religious duty. Banishing the tempters, he embarks
on an outpouring of faith in a paean through which hope and contemplation
reign supreme. He subjects his entire inner and outer life to re-examination
in relation to man and God. Ultimately, he finds his answer as the work
builds to a triumphant conclusion.
Copyright © 22 July 2001
Bill Newman, Rome, Italy
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