2002 Bruckner Marathon

The 2002 Bruckner Marathon was held on 31 August 2002 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 178th 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

Gennady Rozhdestvensky
USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
BMG Melodiya BVCX-38016

Performances of Bruckner's F-minor symphony cover a broad spectrum, from a light almost Schubert-like approach to a heavy late-Bruckner approach. Rozhdestvensky follows the latter, and some listeners may find it inappropriate. Yet we have always found plenty of room for diversity when it comes to Bruckner, and Rozhdestvensky's Bruckner almost always has some unusual and interesting elements. We are pleased to begin our marathon with this somewhat "over-the-top" recording of Bruckner's student work.

Symphony No. 1

Leif Segerstam
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

Leif Segerstam chose to perform what is now the standard "Linz" version of the Bruckner First, but that's about all that is standard in this performance. Many of us may have first encountered Segerstam in his complete Sibelius and Mahler cycles for Chandos. These performances are noteworthy for their unique but musical interpretations, and Segerstam is just as unique and musical in his Bruckner. We're particular taken by his tempi and phrasing; his is probably the loveliest Bruckner First ever. We can only hope that Segerstam will have the opportunity to make some commercial Bruckner recordings.

Symphony No. 0

Bernard Haitink
Concertgebouw Orchestra
June 1966
Philips CD 442041

Recordings of Bruckner's early D minor symphony are rare, and we are fortunate that Haitink chose to include it in his first traversal of the master's symphonies with the Concertgebouw. Although Haitink has always had a preference for steady and generally broad tempi in his Bruckner interpretations, he presents us with a youthful and vigorous reading of "the Littlest D minor", and, in doing so, he has given us one of the most satisfying readings this work has ever received. The playing of the Concertgebouw, at the time fully under Haitink's command after his brief apprenticeship under Jochum following Van Beinum's passing, is superlative.

Symphony No. 2

Erich Bergel
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
16 March 1978
Lucky Ball

Although the name of Erich Bergel (1930-1998) would appear to be an obscure entry among Brucknerians, this Rumanian conductor has left us an interesting reading of this seldom-performed symphony. This recording dates from the period that followed Bergel's emigration to Germany, where he taught at the Berlin Academy and conducted various orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic following Karajan's invitation. Bergel had great affinity for the music of Bach, and left us two books: "The Art of the Fugue" (1980) and "Bach's Last Fugue" (1985), which served as the basis for his completion of the last fugue of the work. (Interested listeners can sample his magnificent live recording of "The Art of the Fugue" with the Cluj Philharmonic on the Budapest Music Center label, BMC CD 011.)

The present Bruckner recording follows the Haas edition, with the omission of scherzo repeats. Even though this edition is now considered spurious by modern Bruckner scholarship, Bergel gives us an inspired performance, with committed playing from the Bavarian Radio Symphony, with whom Bergel seems to have forged an understanding partnership.

Symphony No. 3

Carl Schuricht
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
2-4 December 1965
EMI/Electrola CD CDZ 25 2924 2

The esteem in which the VPO held Schuricht can be fairly gauged by recognizing that he was one of only a few conductors who was awarded the Otto Nicolai medal (1956) and honorary membership of the orchestra (in commemoration of his 80th birthday in 1960). It was by one of those strange turns of fate that his partnership with the orchestra intensified during his later years, having been selected to lead the orchestra, along with Andre Cluytens, during their American tour of 1956, following the deaths of Furtwängler and Kleiber. Schuricht reciprocated their affection by conducting memorable live performances during that tour (A celebrated recording of a concert at the United Nations dating from December of 1956 has been released on the Archiphon label with works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.) and a series of studio and live recordings.

This recording is the last in Schuricht's series of great Bruckner recordings with the orchestra and is his only recording of the work. Schuricht follows the 1890 revision of the symphony (ed. Rättig), which differs slightly from the 1889 Nowak edition. Throughout, the listener can find characteristic examples of Schuricht's way with Bruckner: flexible tempi, affectionate phrasing without sentimentality, and a great ear for the orchestral line.

Symphony No. 4

Wilhelm Furtwängler
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
29 October 1951
Orfeo 559022

When it comes to Furtwängler and Bruckner, no introduction is really necessary. It is interesting that Furtwängler learned his Bruckner from the first printings, but as the Orel and Haas editions came out, he switched to them, with the sole exception of the Fourth. The combination of Furtwängler's conducting and the 1888 version of the score make this one of the most, if not the most, exciting Bruckner Fourths on record.

Three Furtwängler Bruckner Fourth recordings survive. The early BPO wartime recording is not quite complete; the other two derive from the same tour Furtwängler made with the VPO in 1951. Choosing just one of the two complete performances is not easy, but we have decided to present the later of the two, as it has just been reissued in a new transfer from Orfeo, presumably from the original master tapes.

Symphony No. 5

Franz Welser-Möst
London Philharmonic Orchestra
31 May/1 June 1993
EMI 55125

With a duration of less than 69 minutes, this dynamic live Bruckner Fifth under Franz Welser-Möst qualifies for the "fast and furious" category. Gone are the quasi-religious aura and laboratory conditions that are now a standard part of most recent Bruckner recordings. Instead we have a daring recording that may not please everyone, but we consider it to be a knockout. It is interesting that Franz Schalk felt the need to add extra percussion during the final chorale of this symphony. Welser-Möst does not follow Schalk's score, but he did arrange for his timpanist to give just a bit extra in the end (to put it mildly). That combined with some fine brass work lead to an unusually rousing end to the symphony.

Symphony No. 6

Sergiu Celibidache
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
26-30 November 1991
Sony VHS 48348

Bruckner connoisseurs have long hailed Celibidache's interpretation of the Sixth symphony as one of his finest achievements. During this latter phase of his career, he could indulge in his use of very expansive tempi, which, frankly, can make recordings such as that of Bruckner's Eighth symphony sound distended. There is none of that here; Celibidache's affinity for this, one of Bruckner's most elusive works, is evident, and the convincing nature of his interpretation is such, that all questions of tempo relationships are simply forgotten. This video appears to be an edited version from several performances given during the above dates. The companion recording released by EMI, from 29 November, is very similar in nature, with minor differences in the timings of the individual movements. We feel that the visual aspect of this performance provides an added dimension that is not offered by the EMI recording.

Symphony No. 7

Evgeni Svetlanov
Hague Residentie Orchestra
21 May 2001
In Memoriam Evgeni Svetlanov

Evgeni Svetlanov (1928-2002) was destined for a career in the theater. He made his Bolshoi debut at the tender age of 3, as Butterfly's child in the Bolshoi's production of Puccini's opera and later served as that theater's music director for many years. He left an immense discography, mainly of Russian music (one of his main achievements being his recordings of the complete symphonies of Myaskovsky, which he partly funded himself), but he conducted and recorded the music of such diverse composers as Elgar, Mahler and Bruckner, and he also composed various symphonic, choral, and chamber music works. His studio recording of Bruckner's 8th was issued on the Melodiya and Olympia labels. The present recording of the Seventh symphony, in the Nowak edition, dates from barely a year before his passing, when Svetlanov was performing mainly as a guest conductor following a spat with the authorities at the Bolshoi. It is a reading in the grand manner and the attentive listener will be rewarded with an uncommon and surprisingly effective finale.

Symphony No. 8

Günter Wand
BBC Symphony Orchestra
11 November 1983
In Memoriam Günter Wand

If and when a Günter Wand (1912-2002) discography and concert record is undertaken, the Eighth symphony will figure prominently as perhaps the work he most often performed. (No fewer than a dozen studio and live recordings of the work with him at the helm are currently in circulation.) One of us (RK) recalls fondly a 1989 performance of the Fifth with the Chicago Symphony that helped cement his reputation in the United States as one of the great Brucknerians of the 20th century. The present recording dates from the period that followed Wand's impressive UK debut in 1982 as he was forging a close partnership with the BBC symphony, of which he became principal guest conductor. As in all of his recordings of the work, Wand selected the Haas edition, and he turns out a ruggedly convincing performance, wonderfully played by the British orchestra.

Symphony No. 9

Takashi Asahina
Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
16 March 1991
Pony Canyon PCCL-00126
In Memoriam Takashi Asahina

Takashi Asahina may have made more Bruckner recordings than any other conductor. John Berky's discography currently lists six recordings of the Bruckner Ninth alone! Out of these, we have chosen a live recording from 1991 to honor the memory of this great Brucknerian and to complete our fourth annual Bruckner marathon. This is the fastest of his Bruckner Ninth recordings, and it has the air of excitement we expect of a great live recording.