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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

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 und drang.

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.

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Copyright © 22 July 2001 Bill Newman, Rome, Italy




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