1999 Bruckner Marathon

The 1999 Bruckner Marathon was held on 4 September 1999 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 175th 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

Vladimir Ashkenazy
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
September 1998
Ondine 920

At the last minute, we decided to play this recording while preparing for the "official" start of the marathon. No notes were written.

Symphony No. 1

Georg-Ludwig Jochum
RIAS Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
3/4 February 1956
Tahra 162-170

We start off with a bit of a surprise: Eugen Jochum's younger brother Georg-Ludwig (affectionately known by some American Bruckner lovers as "Tiny"). Tiny was a phenomenal talent, having been selected among 96 contenders for the post of music director in Muenster while still in his 20s. Even though he did not have the benefit of a widely known recording career, as did his brother Eugen, it is very clear from the few recordings he left us that he was a passionate interpreter and every bit as dedicated to Bruckner as his older brother. In his hands, Bruckner's First emerges as an incisive, bold, and even fierce work of art. Tiny's Bruckner First is one of the most exciting on record.

Symphony No. 0

Georg Tintner
National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
23-25 September 1996
Naxos 8.554215-16

No Bruckerthon would be complete without a contribution from the one who might be called the greatest living Bruckner conductor. Georg Tintner now has a complete Bruckner cycle in the can, and this cycle demonstrates that Tintner's commitment to the early Bruckner symphonies is as strong as it is to the later works. Many collectors will have bought this recording mainly because of the coupling--a fine recording of the 1887 Eighth. But in Tintner's hands, the Zeroth comes across as a powerful and beautiful work, not at all boring, as some conductors have made it. One might even say that it would be worth getting the two-disc set for his Symphony 0 alone.

Symphony No. 2

Carlo Maria Giulini
Wiener Symphoniker
8-10 December 1974

Giulini recorded a number of Bruckner symphonies in the seventies and eighties, and then he stopped. There are EMI recordings of the Second with the VSO and the Ninth with Chicago; later Deutsche Grammophon recordings of Symphonies 7-9 are with the VPO.

Giulini's recording of the Second is at this time a rarity, having only been issued on CD in Japan to the best of our knowledge. It is also a rarity in that it is the only recording in wide circulation that follows Nowak's edition exactly, including the required elimination of all passages marked "vide". (The beginning of a passage to be cut is marked "vi-" in the score, while the ending of the cut passage is marked "-de".) Fortunately, it is also a wonderful performance with somewhat leisurely tempos (although not as slow as his later VPO recordings of 7-9) and soaring brass.

Symphony No. 3

Kurt Sanderling
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
June 1963
Berlin Classics 2151

Even though one does not think of Kurt Sanderling as a household name when it comes to Bruckner's symphonies, he has conducted the master's music with various orchestras, and several broadcast recordings of some symphonies exist. (He has been conducting Bruckner with the Concertgebouw of late, and it is our hope that some of these performances will eventually be released). This Leipzig Third dates from just a few years after Sanderling had returned to Germany after a lengthy residence in the USSR due to WWII. His style is grand and expansive, but never boring, and he employs a sense of phrasing that is seldom heard nowadays.

Symphony No. 4

Otto Klemperer
Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam
3/4 December 1947
Tahra 328

Otto Klemperer is generally known through his recordings with London's Philharmonia, and while some of those recordings show what a great conductor he was, they are generally characterized by expansive tempi and by less incisiveness than he had been capable of delivering during his earlier years. This magnificent live performance of the Fourth (made upon Klemperer's return to Europe after the war) shows what a firebrand he could be in concert and evokes some of his bold work with the Kroll Opera in Germany during the 30s. Klemperer's commitment to Bruckner's music was constant (indeed, he conducted Bruckner's music in six consecutive decades, a feat not to be easily surpassed), having made one of the first Bruckner recordings - the Adagio of the Eighth with the Staatskapelle Berlin in 1924 - and having astonished London audiences with performances of the same symphony in 1930. This Fourth is without doubt one of the most exciting and incisive on records and we are grateful to Tahra for making it available to Bruckner lovers worldwide. (We recently discovered that this recording has been deleted by Tahra, so be sure to get your hands on it before it becomes impossible to find!)

Symphony No. 5

Carl Schuricht
Wiener Philharmoniker
24 February 1963
Deutsche Grammophon 435332

The name of Schuricht and Bruckner are almost synonymous. His was also a constant involvement with the master's music and there exist recordings dating back to the 30s (a splendid Seventh with the BPO from 1938 that would surely be the subject of another Brucknerthon) to prove this point. This Fifth is, in the opinion of many Bruckner lovers, Schuricht's strongest effort and the fact that he was well into his eighties when he made it is a testament to the inspiring and rejuvenating powers of music. Listen to his lovely phrasing and his propulsive and energetic Finale and you will appreciate a strong Bruckner tradition that is far removed from the less personal and more uniform performances one is likely to encounter nowadays. Although this treasurable recording is very difficult to obtain as released by DG, it is available on several Italian labels with only marginally inferior sound.

Symphony No. 6

F. Charles Adler
Wiener Symphoniker
17 February 1952
Tahra 239-240

F. Charles Adler is not particularly well known, but he was especially devoted to the music of Bruckner and Mahler. Like Knappertsbusch, he favored Bruckner's first printed scores making some of his performances rather unique. His commercial recordings of Bruckner's First, Third, and Ninth as well as the Mass in D-minor and Overture in G-minor are well known by old-time Bruckner collectors. (They are not yet on CD.)

This recording of the Sixth was first published in 1998 by Tahra, and its existence was a pleasant surprise to a multitude of collectors. As expected, Adler used an edition based on the first printing, making his the only known recording of this interesting score. There are numerous changes, including the repeat of the second part of the Trio and changes in dynamics and orchestration. Adler threw in some changes of his own, such as a few extra tympani rolls. This is by no means a standard run though of the symphony! Adler chooses tempi that will appeal to those who like a fast Sixth, while at the same time giving the performance a weight that will appeal to those who like a slow Sixth.

Symphony No. 7

Eduard van Beinum
Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam
May 1953
London POCL-4589

Eduard van Beinum used to say that Bruckner was "his bread and butter". He made his debut conducting the Concertgebouw in 1931 with the mighty Eighth, and for nearly 30 years he went on to conduct over 150 performances of the symphonies. He made two recordings of the Seventh for Decca (one from 1947 on 78 rpms and a remake on LP in 1953, chosen here because of its superior sound). He favored a leaner and incisive approach to Bruckner. (His 19-minute Adagio is one of the fastest on record, but without losing any of its grandeur.) He also favors some of the dynamic tempo variations, especially in the last movement, that have been the subject of so much controversy among Bruckner scholars. In particular, listen to the way he closes the symphony by slowing down while presenting the last movement's main theme and then accelerating towards the end with a radiant display on the lower brass.

Symphony No. 8

Hans Knappertsbusch
Berliner Philharmoniker
7/8 January 1951
Music & Arts 1028

Hans Knappertsbusch left a number of recordings of Bruckner symphonies. He made commercial recordings of Symphonies 3-5 (Decca) and 8 (Westminster). In addition there are a number of broadcast recordings (with and without audience) that have survived. Although best known for his Wagner performances, Kna's Bruckner is not far behind.

In regard to the Eighth, there are five surviving performances. The fastest, performed by the Bavarian State Orchestra in 1955, lasts for 69 minutes, while the slowest, performed by the Munich Philharmonic, lasts for 85 minutes. We have chosen the more moderate Berlin Philharmonic performance, with a duration of 77 minutes. In addition, the playing of the orchestra is superior to that found in the more extreme performances. As always, Kna used the first printing of the symphony, which contains many dubious changes. But some of the dynamics changes are exquisite, especially in the Adagio. This is a beautiful and unique performance of this great symphony.

Symphony No. 9, movements I-III

Wilhelm Furtwaengler
Berliner Philharmoniker
7 October 1944
Deutsche Grammophon POCG-2347

This is probably Furtwaengler's most intense Bruckner recording and it is no surprise that it was made during wartime. It is also Furwaengler's only surviving recording of the Ninth, but what a Ninth it is! It embodies all the tension and stirring sense of cataclysm that any good performance of this symphony should have, and it represents, as well as any of his recordings, Furtwaengler's almost mythical approach to Bruckner.

Symphony No. 9, Finale, completed by Samale, Phillips, Mazzuca, Cohrs

Johannes Wildner
Neue Philharmonie Westfalen
20-21 April & 5 May 1998
SonArte 13

Symphony No. 9, Finale, completed by William Carragan

Hubert Soudant
Utrechts Symfonie Orkest
16 April 1985
Utrechts Symfonie Orkest LP 6818-498/9

Since performances of the Finale are still a rarity, we choose to end our party with two performances, neither of which has yet received wide circulation. But given the similar tempos of the two, it is much easier to evaluate the relative merits of the two completions we present.

The first of these is the completion by Samale, Phillips, Mazzuca, and Cohrs. Johannes Wildner is an unfamiliar name when it comes to Bruckner conducting, but this is probably more due to his youth than to his abilities. His is a name to look for in the future. He delivers a performance that is much more fiery than the more familiar, but still excellent, recording by Eichhorn.

The second completion is by Carragan, conducted by Hubert Soudant. Again, Soudant is not particularly familiar as a Bruckner conductor, but in addition to this Ninth, we have heard an outstanding recording of the Volksfest Finale to the Fourth. He conducted the complete Bruckner Ninth at the penultimate concert of the Utrecht Symphony Orchestra. We find Soudant's performance to be much more convincing than the performance of the same completion by Talmi.