2004 Bruckner Marathon

The 2004 Bruckner Marathon was held on 4 September 2004 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 180th 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

Kurt Wöss
Bruckner Orchester Linz

Kurt Wöss (1914-1987) has the distinction of having conducted and recorded the world premiere of the original version (1874) of the Fourth symphony -- a 1975 recording with the Munich Philharmonic that we played at a previous marathon. That same year, Wöss performed the F-minor symphony with the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz, and we are fortunate to have obtained a private recording of the performance. Although the sound is not quite comparable to that of modern digital recordings, the performance effectively brings out the qualities of early Bruckner, a composer who was beginning to find his own voice and who paid tribute to various composers who came before him, like Mendelssohn and, especially, Robert Schumann.

Symphony No. 1

Riccardo Chailly Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
15 February 1987
Lucky Ball 0066

Riccardo Chailly has now finished his "complete" cycle of Bruckner symphonies with the Berlin RSO and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, excluding only the F-minor symphony. We are fortunate that Chailly chose to include in his cycle the unfairly maligned Vienna version of the First, giving the listener the opportunity to appreciate Bruckner's final revision of this score. The re-orchestrated Scherzo is especially appealing. The live recording we present here was recorded around the same time as Chailly's studio recording for Decca, and though the two performances are quite similar, we find the live performance to have just a bit more energy.

Symphony No. 0

Ivan Fischer
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Ivan Fischer's name doesn't typically come to mind when one thinks of Bruckner, but an aircheck of Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra in the Bruckner Third at the 2000 Proms got him on our radar screen. Fischer's "Nullte" from 1997 is equally impressive, with phrasing and tempo variations that remind one of the old-timers like Schuricht. The orchestra seems as if it's about to take flight at the end of the first movement. We can only hope to hear more Bruckner performances by Ivan Fischer.

Symphony No. 2

Takashi Asahina
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
11 September 1986
JVC CD VICC 40190-99

Takashi Asahina's credentials as a Brucknerian are impressive, having recorded several Bruckner cycles with various Japanese orchestras. After his passing in December of 2001 at the age of 93, JVC issued a cycle in tribute to the conductor that arguably contains his strongest Bruckner performances. From this cycle, we have selected the Second Symphony in a performance that shows Asahina's firm grasp of not only Bruckner's sense of architecture, but also a characteristic sense of phrasing that distinguished the conductor, especially as he grew older. As is typical with Japanese releases, the performance offers outstanding sound and the orchestra matches the conductor's vision. We feel this is a special performance that stands on its own and we are pleased to report that JVC has issued it on a single disc (JVC CD VDC-1211).

Symphony No. 3

Johannes Wildner
Neue Philharmonie Westfalen
SonArte SP-20

Johannes Wildner caught the attention of many Bruckner enthusiasts with his very first recording of a Bruckner symphony: the Ninth with Finale completed by Samale, Phillips, Mazzuca, and Cohrs. We included the Finale in our first marathon back in 1999. Now Wildner has done it again with a three-disc set of the Third, which includes the 1873, 1877, and 1889 versions of the score as well as the 1876 Adagio. Both the Ninth and the Third were initially released on the SonArte label, and all were subsequently reissued on Naxos except for the 1873 Third, which we have chosen (for this reason) to present here. Wildner and the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen give us the most idiomatic Bruckner that one is likely to encounter these days, with perfectly judged tempos and sonorous brass. We find Wildner's Bruckner releases thus far to be extremely encouraging, and we certainly hope for more.

Symphony No. 4

Georg Tintner
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
16-17 October 1996 (mvts. 1-3), 3-4 August 1998 (Finale)
Naxos CD 8.554128 (mvts. 1-3), 8.554432 (Finale)

There is no need to introduce the great Brucknerian Georg Tintner here, since this is the fourth time (out of six) we have chosen one of his recordings for our Bruckner marathon. In addition to complete recordings of all eleven Bruckner symphonies, Tintner's cycle includes the 1876 Adagio of the Third and the 1878 Finale of the Fourth. Here we have chosen to play the first three movements of Tintner's 1878/80 Fourth with his recording of the 1878 "Volksfest" Finale. This gives us the opportunity to present a wonderful version of the Finale that is closer in spirit to Bruckner's original version. It is our hope that the maestro would have approved.

Symphony No. 5

Hans Knappertsbusch
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
19 March 1959
Music and Arts CD 1105

Knappertsbusch always favored the first printed editions of Bruckner's symphonies, and that was indeed the case with the Fifth, for which he favored the Schalk edition with its massive cuts, especially in the Finale. While this may be viewed as a shortcoming in his recorded legacy, it also offers a glimpse to the times when Bruckner's music was not firmly secure in the repertoire and had to use the help of Bruckner's pupils, who were eager to see the master's music performed. This particular performance dates from three years after Kna's better known studio recording for Decca (stereo) and despite its mono sound, it offers a much more exciting reading, especially in the closing pages of the Finale. This performance was also issued as part of Music and Arts multi-disc set devoted to Kna's Bruckner performances (CD 1028), using a source that was also used for a number of other issues. The poor sound quality of these prior issues made it difficult to get excited by this performance, but it has thankfully been remastered here from a better source in substantially (some might say astonishingly) improved sound.

Symphony No. 6

Herbert Blomstedt
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
8 October 1990
Decca 436129

Herbert Blomstedt has continued his traversal of Bruckner's symphonies and has now conducted all the symphonies from the Third onwards. The Sixth seems to occupy a special place in his repertoire since, in addition to this studio recording with 'his' orchestra at the time, he has also conducted it in Dresden, Leipzig and Hamburg and recordings of all these have been issued on various labels. The San Francisco Sixth has been regarded since its release as one of the loveliest and most beautifully recorded performances this symphony has ever received. Of special note is Blomstedt's expansive treatment of the Adagio, which never sounds slow and a very effective reading of the Finale, which can sound problematic under less expert hands.

Symphony No. 7

Klaus Tennstedt
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
31 May & 2 June 1984
CSO "Collector's Choice" set

Klaus Tennstedt (1926-1998) made his American debut with the Boston Symphony in 1974, three years after defecting from East Germany. He soon established his reputation as a Brucknerian of note with a very exciting performance of the Eighth symphony, which he performed in Boston and in various other American cities and in Europe, and which he recorded commercially with the London Philharmonic. One of us was fortunate to see him replace an ailing Erich Leinsdorf in Chicago's Orchestra Hall in 1982 when he once again conducted the mighty Eighth. Here was a conductor who, despite language difficulties, knew how to get what he wanted from an orchestra. This performance of the Seventh comes from two years later and it is an impressive one. Supported by the famous Chicago brass, Tennstedt offers a performance that is rugged and eloquent, noble and exciting. Although he never recorded this symphony for commercial release, three other live performances exist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York and London Philharmonics (issued only on pirate labels). We are indeed very fortunate that the CSO decided to include this performance in its "Collector's Choice" set.

Symphony No. 8

Jascha Horenstein
London Symphony Orchestra
10 September 1970
BBC Legends BBCL 4017

In addition to studio recordings of the last three symphonies, there are live recordings of Horenstein conducting all of Bruckner's numbered symphonies except the Seventh. Most of the latter were recorded by the BBC and remain locked in their vaults (only multi-generation copies of airchecks can be heard), but fortunately Symphonies 5, 8, and 9 have been released on the BBC Legends label. Horenstein made a studio recording of the Eighth in 1955 with the Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra, but we have chosen instead his far superior live recording with the LSO made during the 1970 Proms. It is an intensely exciting reading that is greeted at the end by an equally intense ovation from the Proms crowd.

Symphony No. 9

Herbert von Karajan
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
8 May 1978
Andante 4070

No fewer than nine performances of the Ninth under Karajan (with the Berlin and Vienna orchestras) have been issued on various labels. Of all of these, we think this live performance - also issued on video by DG -- is the most exciting, with Karajan adopting swift tempi without losing eloquence and depth. The Scherzo, in particular, has a relentless quality that he never realized in the studio and the Adagio has the kind of intensity that he sacrificed in his latter years as he became obsessed with perfection of execution and beauty of sound. Once again, we are fortunate that Andante has included this in their set devoted to Bruckner's last three symphonies.