2006 Bruckner Marathon

Carlsbad, California
2 September 2006

Program Notes

String Quintet, orchestrated by Hans Stadlmair

Lothar Zagrosek
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
7-8 February 1994
Orfeo 348951

We begin this year's marathon with the String Quintet rather than the Study Symphony, and we push the envelope even further by using a transcription for string orchestra rather than the original. But, just as is the case with the late Beethoven quartets, the Bruckner quintet works beautifully with the full string section of an orchestra. Many may be familiar with Fritz Oeser's transcription of the Adagio. Here Lothar Zagrosek leads the Bamberg Symphony in a transcription of the entire work made by Hans Stadlmair (with revisions by the conductor). As expected, the Adagio works best, taking on a new dimension when performed by full string orchestra.

Symphony No. 1

Eugen Jochum
Staatskapelle Dresden
11-15 December 1978
EMI 62935

Eugen Jochum recorded two incomplete Bruckner cycles (he never recorded the Student or the "Nullte" symphonies), the first with the Bavarian RSO and the Berlin Philharmonic for DG and the second with the Staatskapelle Dresden for EMI. His first recording of the first symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic, which we played at last year's event, was made in 1965. In the intervening thirteen years, Jochum's interpretation remained remarkably consistent (the timings difference between the two recordings, both overall and in the individual movements is just a few seconds) but the difference in the orchestras makes for interesting contrasts; where the BPO sounds more aggressive and incisive, the Staatskapelle Dresden sounds more characterful, but certainly no less tense, especially in the outer movements, which Jochum takes very fast. Both Jochum brothers (we played Georg-Ludwig's recording in 1999) had a special affinity for this, Bruckner's first numbered symphony, which according to the composer "was composed like a fool in love."

Symphony No. 0

Lorin Maazel
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
9-20 January 1999
Air check, subsequently issued as BR Klassik 900711

While Maazel's is not a household name when it comes to Bruckner, he did make commercial recordings of the 5th symphony (with the VPO for Decca in 1974 -- RK's introduction to the work on LPs) and of the 7th and 8th symphonies (with the BPO for EMI in 1988 and 1989, respectively) before embarking on a live cycle in 1999 while music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony. Maazel's reading of the Nullte is on the spacious side, with a broad first movement that somewhat belies the work's early nature and emphasizes some of the grandeur we were to enjoy in Bruckner's later symphonies.

Symphony No. 2

Simone Young
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
8 April 2005
Air check

The Australian conductor Simone Young has a strong affinity for Bruckner. When conducting the Berlin Philharmonic on 7 December 2005 -- the first woman to conduct the BPO since 1978 -- she included the Bruckner Third in her program. She has also been an early adopter of Carragan's edition of the 1872 Bruckner Second, joining ranks with Kurt Eichhorn and Georg Tintner (very good company indeed). Having conducted the 1872 Second with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in November 2004, she went on to conduct the Vienna premiere of this version of the symphony in the Wiener Konzerthaus in April 2005 with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra -- the performance we present here. In it Young deals with the problem of the final peroration in a more extreme way than Bruckner did in 1873, not by adding a fourth trombone as can be heard in the Eichhorn performance of the 1873 variant, but by translating the three regular trombones from the rhythmic chords, where they never will be missed, to the bass line where they add substantial solidity. Carragan commented at the time that it was a very effective solution.

Symphony No. 3

Hans Knappertsbusch
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
14 February 1960
Altus ALT-071

Hans Knappertsbusch always preferred the revised versions of Bruckner's symphonies and in the case of the Third, he chose to record the 1890 version. For the listener who is most familiar with the 1889 version, this performance follows it closely, with only minor differences with Nowak's edition of the 1889 version. Kna's lack of enthusiasm for rehearsals is also somewhat in evidence, with a bad entrance in the brass nearly causing a calamity in the Finale. (The same error occurs in his Bavarian State Orchestra performance.) Knappertsbusch recorded the work commercially for Decca with the VPO some six years before this live recording, but we feel that the live performance, issued recently in Japan, is more exciting and representative of Kna's best work on the podium.

Symphony No. 4

Akira Naito
Tokyo New City Orchestra
5 July 2005
Delta Classics DCCA-0017

We played Akira Naito's Bruckner Eighth in last year's marathon, and our notes on that performance mentioned this Bruckner Fourth, which we are now happy to include in this year's line-up. This is the world premiere performance and recording of Ben Korstvedt's new edition of the 1888 Bruckner Fourth, which represents Bruckner's final thoughts on this symphony. Naito and the Tokyo New City Orchestra give a thrilling account of the symphony, with the timpanist having a particularly stunning effect in the final movement. Naito has been breaking new ground in Bruckner performances, with the premiere recording of an intermediate Adagio to the Eighth in 2004 and this premiere recording of the Korstvedt Fourth in 2005. One must wonder what he will do in 2006. As we said last year, here is a Brucknerian to watch!

Symphony No. 5

Günter Wand
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
12-14 January 1996
RCA 68503

Günter Wand was one of the greatest Bruckner conductors of recent years. He recorded a Bruckner cycle (Symphonies 1 to 9) in Cologne. Then, following recordings of the Eighth and Ninth in Lübeck Cathedral with the NDR Symphony, he recorded another cycle (Symphonies 3 to 9, with Symphony 6 recorded twice) in Hamburg. His final cycle, from which this recording came, was with the Berlin Philharmonic (Symphonies 4-5, 7-9). Wand's BPO Fifth is a fine reading, with especially enthusiastic contributions from the trombone section. This Bruckner Fifth has been on our short list since our first Bruckner marathon in 1999, and we actually thought we had played it until we went back and checked. We are glad to finally include this phenomenal performance in our line-up.

Symphony No. 6

Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
18 February 2005
Air check

Jukka-Pekka Saraste (born in 1956) is part of a crop of relatively young and talented conductors from Finland. He rose to international fame as music director of the Finnish Radio Symphony (1987-2001) and as music director of the Toronto Symphony (1994-2001). More recently, Saraste has served as principal guest conductor of the BBC SO (2004-2005), is scheduled to take the helm of the Oslo Philharmonic this Fall and is a much sought-after guest with many of the world's greatest orchestras. Saraste has performed Bruckner with various orchestras in and outside of Finland. He gives us a propulsive account of the Sixth, with incisive outer movements and Scherzo and an Adagio that, while fleet in comparison with other conductors who seek depth in relaxed tempi, achieves a degree of nobility that few conductors approach.

Symphony No. 7

Claudio Abbado
Lucerne Festival Orchestra
10-12 August 2005
EuroArts DVD 2054648

After stepping down as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002 and hopefully overcoming some serious health problems, Abbado has remained very active, having made several live recordings with the BPO, Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, with which he has re-recorded several works that are at the core of his repertoire. During last year's Lucerne Festival, he recorded this performance of the Seventh. Those familiar with his studio recording with the VPO for DG will find this performance to be more exciting, with a heartfelt Adagio and a very effective Scherzo. Abbado is supported by stellar playing from the Lucerne orchestra, which contains some of the principal players from Europe's best orchestras.

Symphony No. 8

Carl Schuricht
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
7 December 1963
Altus ALT-085

Schuricht is a name that is almost synonymous with Bruckner, even though he never recorded a complete cycle. We played his live VPO Fifth in 1999 and his outstanding studio VPO Ninth in 2001, and this year we have decided to play a live performance of the 8th, also with the VPO and recently issued in Japan, that was made a mere five days before their studio recording for EMI. Besides the difference in monaural sound for the live recording vs. stereo for the studio recording, we find the live recording to have an extra degree of tension that Schuricht could not quite capture in the studio, which can be heard to great effect in the opening movement. We are fortunate that this interesting document has surfaced from the Austrian radio archives.

Symphony No. 9

Leonard Bernstein
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
26 February - 3 March 1990
EuroArts DVD 2072018

Leonard Bernstein was one of the greatest and most-loved conductors of the second half of the 20th century, and many of today's music lovers grew up with his New York Philharmonic recordings on CBS. But Bernstein went on to inspire a younger generation of music lovers with a series of recordings on Deutsche Grammophon late in his life, and amongst the DG recordings is a Bruckner Ninth with the Vienna Philharmonic. The EuroArts DVD performance we present here is taken from the same series of concerts, which turned out to be Bernstein's last collaboration with the VPO, as he died just 7 months later. Bernstein did not conduct many of Bruckner's symphonies, but he knew them well nonetheless. We are particularly amused to hear that he once sat down with Henry Fogel at the piano and played the entire Bruckner Eighth from memory, critiquing it along the way. But Bernstein had a different opinion of the Ninth, and we are pleased to complete our marathon with his performance of this work.