2001 Bruckner Marathon

The 2001 Bruckner Marathon was held on 1 September 2001 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 177th birthday. The recordings were selected by Ramón Khalona and Dave Griegel with the goal of presenting an interesting variety of styles from some of the greatest Bruckner conductors.

Program Notes

Symphony in F minor

Elyakum Shapirra
London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 1972
EMI LP C-063-02-300019

Although Elyakum Shapirra, an Israeli conductor who has enjoyed a career in Europe, is not a household name when it comes to Bruckner's music, to him falls the honor of having made the first commercial recording of the master's early F-minor symphony. Shapirra's reading falls somewhere between Tintner's vigorous recording for Naxos and Ashkenazy's more romantic interpretation for Ondine. He was known at the beginning of his career for his choice of interesting, seldom-heard repertoire. We are fortunate that he chose to make this recording.

Symphony No. 1

Jascha Horenstein
BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 16 October 1971

Jascha Horenstein's name comes up very quickly when discussing historical recordings of Bruckner, as he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in the first electrical recording of a Bruckner symphony (the Seventh, recorded in 1928). Just two additional commercial recordings, of the Eighth and Ninth with the Vienna Symphony, followed in the 1950s. Fortunately, the BBC recorded--with the exception of the Seventh--a complete cycle of the numbered symphonies with Horenstein, and some of these have come out on the BBC Legends label.

The present recording of the First has not yet been released on BBC Legends, but copies of an aircheck exist in reasonable sound. We are pleased to present this rarity in this year's marathon.

Symphony No. 0

Ferdinand Leitner
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 11 June 1970?
Orfeo 269921

One of the finest recordings of "Die Nullte" is a broadcast recording by Ferdinand Leitner with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. We are guessing at the date of this recording. Orfeo claims a date of 11 June 1960, but this is a stereo recording, and Bavarian Radio recordings prior to 1964 were mono (according to discographer Mark Kluge). Orfeo's coupling is a recording of Eder's Organ Concerto from 16 April 1970, so we might guess the Bruckner is of the same vintage.

Despite the fairly recent date, Leitner's reading is definitely of the old school, especially in the Finale, which is phrased in a manner reminiscent of such distinguished Bruckner old-timers such as Schuricht and Furtwängler.

Symphony No. 2

Kurt Eichhorn
Bruckner-Orchester Linz
Recorded 25-28 March 1991
Camerata 195/196

Kurt Eichhorn made two recordings of the Bruckner Second during 25-28 March 1991, presenting the first two versions of this symphony, edited by William Carragan, for the first time. The first version of 1872, has been subsequently recorded by Georg Tintner, so we have decided to play the less familiar second version of 1873. Since the details of the 1873 version will be buried in Carragan's Revisionsbericht, Eichhorn's recording is likely to remain the only recording of this version for a very long time. Fortunately, the conductor and orchestra, working closely with the editor, turned in a performance that will stand the test of time.

It is interesting to listen for some of the changes from the more familiar 1872 version: a violin solo in the Adagio with a clarinet solo at the end, no Scherzo repeats, some completely different music in the Finale along with the cancellation of, not the second, but the first crescendo at the end of the movement.

Symphony No. 3

Georg Tintner
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Recorded 27/28 August 1998
Naxos 8.553454

Recordings of the first version of Bruckner's Third symphony are rare, and none of those that have been recorded in the past approaches the level of commitment that Tintner and the RSNO give us here. While Tintner's tempi are indeed expansive (much more so than Inbal's, Norrington's, and Rozhdestvensky's, to mention the other commercial recordings of this version), there is a sense of inevitability and passion in this performance that mutes criticism. This recording is arguably the crown jewel in Tintner's Bruckner cycle for Naxos.

Symphony No. 4

Kurt Wöss
Munich Philharmonic
Recorded 20 September 1975
Bruckner Haus Linz LP 2/12430-315

The first version of Bruckner's Fourth was published by Nowak in 1975, over one hundred years after Bruckner completed it, and Wöss' performance was the world premiére. We can be thankful that the ORF (Austrian radio) was there to capture the event, as this is one of the finest recordings available. The performance, though on the slow and deliberate side, nonetheless displays an excitement only heard on special occasions. The brass are particularly brilliant on this recording, and the symphony is followed by several minutes of applause from a very enthusiastic audience.

Symphony No. 5

Giuseppe Sinopoli
Staatskapelle Dresden
Recorded March 1999
Deutsche Grammophon 469527

This represents Sinopoli's last commercial Bruckner recording (edited from a series of live performances at the Semper Oper in Dresden) before his untimely death in April 2001. Sinopoli was a controversial, but highly gifted musical personality, one that was full of ideas and was always ready to convey the passion he felt for the music of his favorite composers. This Bruckner Fifth unfolds at a steady pace in a somewhat reserved manner, but seldom have the intricacies of its Finale been resolved with such forcefulness and conviction, and as well supported by such a magnificent orchestra as Dresden's. It is as if everything was deliberately saved for that culminating moment in the coda, where this performance shows its glory. This recording is a fine memorial to a conductor who will be missed.

Symphony No. 6

Rafael Kubelik
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 9&11 December 1982

This live performance (edited from two performances at Orchestra Hall) comes from Kubelik's late period. He had a special affinity for this symphony, which he had championed in Chicago during his tenure as music director in the early 1950s, and which he continued to perform throughout his career with various orchestras. (Additional live recordings exist with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, Cleveland, and Philadelphia orchestras.) One of us (RK) was fortunate to witness one of these Chicago performances and still remembers the powerful impression made by Kubelik's persuasive reading of this symphony. Most of all, it is his masterful treatment of tempo relationships (especially in the first movement) that shows how effectively he solved the deceptively simple, but demanding problems that are posed by the composer. The Chicago orchestra plays with the power that they are known for, but also with the affection that they always had for their old music director, who, incidentally, chose to repeat with them in these later years some of the repertoire that he conducted during those three seasons in the 1950s when he first became acquainted with them.

Symphony No. 7

Eugen Jochum
Vienna Philharmonic
Recorded 9 June 1974
Bells of St. Florian CD AB-2

This live performance, taken from a concert in Vienna in 1974 as part of the Wiener Festwochen's special Bruckner tribute on the 150th anniversary of Bruckner's birth, documents one of those few recorded occurrences of the Jochum-VPO partnership. (He had recorded the symphony with the orchestra for Telefunken as early as 1939!) It is a performance of great passion, slightly more expansive than his commercial recordings with Berlin (twice) and Dresden, and with a sense of occasion that the studio recordings can't match.

Symphony No. 8

Hans Rosbaud
SWF Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden
Recorded 17 November 1955

Among Bruckner lovers of earlier generations, Hans Rosbaud's performances with the Munich Philharmonic during the post-war period served to mark him as a distinguished Brucknerian. (Unfortunately, none of those performances seems to have surfaced in recorded form.) Later, during his years as music director in Baden-Baden, he went on to make a highly regarded studio recording of the Seventh symphony (issued on Vox), as well as live recordings of the Second through Ninth symphonies (excepting the Seventh), some of which have appeared on CD. The present performance, recorded for radio broadcast in 1955 and taped off-the-air from German radio, shows Rosbaud's propulsive view of this great symphony. One hopes that the remaining recordings of the Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth symphonies, currently in the SWF archives, will be released in the near future.

Symphony No. 9

Carl Schuricht
Vienna Philharmonic
Recorded 20-22 June 1961
EMI 67279

Like Horenstein and Jochum, Schuricht's name goes back to the early days of Bruckner recordings. Schuricht made studio recordings of the Seventh and Ninth for Polydor in 1938 and 1943, respectively. Fortunately, he was also able to make stereo recordings of the Third, Eighth, and Ninth with the Vienna Philharmonic for EMI in the 1960s, from which we chose our recording of the Ninth.

Schuricht's view of the Ninth, as presented here in its unfinished form, is absolutely unique, but absolutely right in all ways. Though the movement timings are relatively short, Schuricht shapes the work so the tempos never seem brisk. One can also enjoy some fascinating changes in the orchestration of the Adagio. Once you hear Schuricht's dissonant horns, you'll miss them in all other recordings.

Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Richard Williams for kindly providing sources for our selected recordings of the Symphony in F minor and Symphony No. 4.