2005 Bruckner Marathon

The 2005 Bruckner Marathon was held on 3 September 2005 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 181st 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

Arnold Östman Hilversum Radio Chamber Orchestra
9 November 2001

Arnold Östman is best known as a baroque and classical opera conductor at the 400-seat Drottningholm Court Theatre in Stockholm, and his recordings with that orchestra of Mozart's operas on l'Oiseau-Lyre are especially fine. Thus, he is a natural candidate to conduct the most classical of Bruckner's symphonies. Because of the small string section of the Hilversum Radio Chamber Orchestra, greater prominence is given to the winds, whose numerous solo passages are especially appealing. Östman chooses relatively quick tempi, and this gives the entire symphony a gentle flow that it often lacks. The slow movement is particularly graceful.

Symphony No. 0

Theodor Guschlbauer
Bruckner Orchester Linz
6 July 1981
Camerata 257

While not a household name in the Bruckner canon of recordings, Guschlbauer (born in Vienna in 1939 and one of Hans Swarowsky's students) has made two commercial Bruckner symphony recordings. This recording of the "Nullte" dates from his tenure as music director of the city of Linz (1975-1983) and is part of the complete Bruckner Orchestra of Linz cycle released on the Camerata label, with most of the symphonies conducted by Kurt Eichhorn and with the First, Third and Fourth symphonies conducted by Martin Sieghart. He has also made a recording of the Seventh symphony (released on the Erato label) with the Strasbourg Philharmonic, of which he was music director during the period 1983-1997. Guschlbauer has conducted in most of Europe's major opera houses (including Salzburg, Verona, Montreux and Aix-en-Provence) and is a regular guest with the Hamburg and Vienna State Operas. Guschlbauer leads a fine performance of the "Nullte", with the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz displaying their expected affinity for this composer's music.

Symphony No. 1

Eugen Jochum
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
16-19 October 1965
Deutsche Grammophon 429079

This is Eugen Jochum's first recording of this symphony, which was released as part of his first traversal of the symphonies with the Berlin Philarmonic and Bavarian Radio Symphony. He was later to re-record this symphony as part of his second traversal with Staatskapelle Dresden thirteen years later. A comparison of both recordings reveals that his view of this symphony remained very consistent and any significant differences are purely due to the different orchestral timbre of the Berlin and Dresden orchestras. As is usual with Jochum, his tempi are rather flexible and on the brisk side, with a particularly fierce-sounding scherzo and an eloquent finale. This year's event provides us the opportunity to compare Eugen's style with that of his younger brother, Georg-Ludwig, a noted Brucknerian in his own right.

Symphony No. 2

Georg-Ludwig Jochum
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
April 1962

We played Georg-Ludwig Jochum's First during our first Brucknerthon in 1999 (older brother Eugen didn't make our play list until the following year), and now we turn to an aircheck of him conducting the Second. This 1962 recording with the Cologne Radio Symphony is not to be confused with his earlier recording from 1944 that first appeared on LP on the Urania label and later on CD on the Tahra and Dante-Lys labels. With the exception of the Scherzo, the 1962 performance is much faster than the 1944, and this adds an extra dimension of excitement to the later performance. Georg-Ludwig also displays the flexibility in tempo that is characteristic of the conducting of his older brother.

Symphony No. 3

Giuseppe Sinopoli
Staatskapelle Dresden
April 1990
Deutsche Grammophon 431684

Giuseppe Sinopoli died in 2001 while conducting Act III of Aida at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and as a tribute we included his Fifth in our 2001 Brucknerthon. While always a controversial conductor due to what many perceive to be an eccentric style, he was able to record an excellent cycle of the last seven of Bruckner's symphonies (the Sixth, based on a broadcast, circulating on numerous private labels). The Third is one of the highlights of the cycle, and a copy of this recording was recently sold on ebay for 131 euros! Sinopoli leads an exciting performance of the 1877 version (following Nowak's score very closely, if not exactly), with the Dresden brass displaying much of their characteristic sound (as does the acoustic of Dresden's Lukaskirche, where it was recorded), quick tempi, and thundering timpani.

Symphony No. 4

Sergiu Celibidache
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
24 September 1969
Deutcshe Grammophon 459663

A listener who is only familiar with Celibidache's late recordings and their expansive tempi could not be blamed for not recognizing who the conductor is in this recording. When Celibidache began his conducting career at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic during the post-war period, he proved to be quite a firebrand; a studio recording of the Brahms Fourth with that orchestra during this period is particularly noteworthy for its energy and eloquence. This rare live recording with the Swedish Radio Symphony (an orchestra that apparently he did not conduct very often) shows some of the intensity of his early period. Rarely has the 'hunting scherzo' featured such energy where the conductor can actually be heard coaxing the players to give their outmost. He also had a unique way with the Finale, particularly in the closing pages, where Celi's declamatory style emphasizes the grandeur in this popular symphony, which is something that often eludes even some of the most notable Brucknerians. We are indeed very fortunate that Deutsche Grammophon decided to include this particular performance as part of their Celibidache edition.

Symphony No. 5

Jascha Horenstein
BBC Symphony Orchestra
15 September 1971
BBC Legends 4033

Horenstein conducted the first electrical recording of a Bruckner symphony (the Seventh) in 1928, and thus his name has come to be included on any short list of great twentieth-century Bruckner conductors. We played an aircheck of Horenstein's Bruckner First during our 2001 Brucknerthon, and his LSO Eighth was included in last year's line-up. Now we turn to what is likely to be his most famous Bruckner recording of all, a Fifth with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded live by the BBC in 1971. This is often considered to be one of the all-time greatest Bruckner Fifths (along with Furtwängler/BPO and Schuricht/VPO), and Horenstein leads a performance that is thrilling from beginning to end. The final chorale is particularly rousing, with outstanding contributions from the brass and timpani.

Symphony No. 6

Ferdinand Leitner
Basel Symphony Orchestra
19 November 1992
Accord 204372

In a previous event, we have featured Leitner conducting a live "Nullte" with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, as released on Orfeo. Of the two recordings of the Sixth symphony by him (a live recording from ten years earlier with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony has been released on the Hännsler label), we have chosen this Basel performance from near the close of his life. (He died in Switzerland in 1996.) A comparison with the earlier performance shows that Leitner had thought the piece anew. Where the earlier performance is straightforward, especially in the first two movements, this Basel performance is more expansive and expressive, offering a shaper contrast with the Scherzo and a Finale that is more deliberate and, in our view, more effective. The Basel orchestra, seldom heard on commercial recordings, provides excellent support and the recorded sound is excellent.

Symphony No. 7

Markus Bosch
Aachen Symphony Orchestra
31 May 2004
Coviello 30405

The young conductor Marcus Bosch (born to German-Brazilian parents in Germany in 1969) has drawn our attention by his recordings of Bruckner's Seventh and Eighth symphonies with the Aachen Symphony, of which he is music director. Both of these live recordings have been recorded in the St. Nicholas church in Aachen and have been released on the Coviello label on standard CD and surround sound formats, which underscore the recording venue's excellent acoustics. Bosch's Seventh (in common with his Eighth) features excellent playing by this little known German orchestra and his interpretation shows that at his young age the conductor has the pulse of this music. His Adagio has the nobility and passion that is common to the great Brucknerian conductors and the closing movement, often problematic even for some seasoned conductors, features a most satisfying resolution. We expect more good things from young Marcus Bosch.

Symphony No. 8

Akira Naito
Tokyo New City Orchestra
4 September 2004
Delta DCCA-0003

Recorded on the same day as last year's Brucknerthon, Akira Naito's Eighth is a thrilling recording that captures the excitement of a single live performance. The recording is made even more noteworthy by the inclusion of the orchestral premiere of an Adagio movement that had recently been edited by Dermot Gault and Takanobu Kawasaki (not yet published). This Adagio was most likely composed by Bruckner in between the more familiar versions of 1887 and 1890. While this intermediate Adagio has some of the characteristics of both of its neighbors, there are also aspects that are unique to this version, such as the amazing parts for the horn section just prior to the climax, which is in E-flat like in the 1890 version. In July of this year, Naito conducted the first performance of the new edition of the 1888 Fourth, edited by Ben Korstvedt. Here is a Brucknerian to watch! Let's hope that Akira Naito will perform and record many other neglected versions of Bruckner's work.

Symphony No. 9

Carlo Maria Giulini
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
June 1988
Deutsche Grammophon 427345

This year saw the passing of one of the twentieth century's greatest conductors, Carlo Maria Giulini, who came to conduct Bruckner relatively late in his life. He made an auspicious beginning by recording one of the most beautiful recordings of the Second symphony, which we have played at a previous event. Giulini's commercial recordings of the last three Bruckner symphonies (all with the VPO, in addition to an earlier recording of the 9th with the Chicago Symphony while he was principal guest conductor of the orchestra) are characterized by a spiritual dimension that has seldom been achieved by other conductors. Of these recordings, we believe that this Vienna recording of the Ninth is his finest Bruckner achievement. It is characterized by relatively broad tempi, without ever lacking in tension, and a great sense of nobility. Recently a rehearsal and performance of this symphony (with the Stuttgart RSO) has been released on DVD. The rehearsal gives us a glimpse of how Giulini achieved his magic, paying careful attention to the score's dynamics, but leaving enough spontaneity for the day of the performance. Giulini will be missed by music lovers worldwide and we can think of no greater tribute than what the Vienna players achieved for him on this occasion.