2007 Bruckner Marathon

Carlsbad, California
1 September 2007

Program Notes

Symphony in F minor

Georg Tintner
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
3-4 September 1998
Naxos 8.554432

This year we bring back the F-minor symphony to the lineup after playing an orchestral version of the String Quintet last year. Of the few available recordings of this symphony (the current version of the discography at abruckner.com lists seven recordings, and we have played all of them but one), this is probably the loveliest. Tintner knows how to bring a connection between early Bruckner and his precursors. One hears echoes of Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn as the master from Ansfelden began to find his way in symphonic writing. How much he was to change!

Symphony No. 0

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
22-25 March 1999
Oehms Classics 209

Skrowaczewski, like Inbal, Rozhdestvensky, and Tintner, recorded all 11 of Bruckner's symphonies. Skrowaczewski's cycle, all with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, is especially strong in the early symphonies, and we include here his recording of "Die Nullte". This symphony, composed between the first versions of the First and Second, deserves to be heard more often, and Skrowaczewski turns in a powerful and swift reading, with especially strong brass playing. Of particular interest is some surprising work from the Saarbrücken bass trombonist in the final movement.

Symphony No. 1

Günter Wand
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
11 July 1981
RCA 63931

Günter Wand recorded at least three partial Bruckner cycles, and the recording of the First we have selected comes from his first, most complete cycle made in Cologne. We are pleased that Wand chose to conduct the rarely performed and unfairly maligned Vienna (1891) version of the symphony. Wand deviates from the score by playing the entire Scherzo reprise intact, without cutting the opening bars, which Bruckner replaced with a transition passage at the end of the Trio (included by Wand). As expected from this team, we are treated to a thoroughly idiomatic reading of the symphony, with tempi that are faster than what we have in Wand's later recordings.

Symphony No. 2

Ilan Volkov
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
17 August 2006
Air check

Last year's Edinburgh Festival included a complete Beethoven symphony cycle conducted by Charles Mackerras (recently issued on Hyperion) as well as a "complete" Bruckner cycle (Symphonies 1-9) with nine different conductors. The Bruckner cycle included a performance of Carragan's new edition of the Second in its 1877 version performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of its Chief Conductor, Ilan Volkov. Volkov breaks with recent trends and turns in a fiery performance, full of excitement and energy. It is also interesting to hear the improved trombone parts in the final peroration -- a revision introduced by Bruckner in 1892. We are privileged to have an air check of this fine performance to play at this year's marathon.

Symphony No. 3

Marcus Bosch
Aachen Symphony Orchestra
6 May 2006
Coviello Classics 30614

Since becoming music director of the Aachen Symphony Orchestra in 2002, Marcus Bosch has recorded the Third, Fifth, Seventh (played in the 2005 marathon) and Eighth symphonies, all of which have been released on the orchestra's label, Coviello Classics. In addition, a recording of the Ninth (with the newly revised Cohrs/Samale completion of the Finale) has already been completed and awaits release this Fall. This year we have decided to play Bosch's distinctive recording of the Third, for which he has chosen the first version of 1873. As with previous releases in this series, the orchestra is vividly captured (the performance was recorded live at Aachen's St. Nikolaus Church), and Bosch proves very adept at handling the complexities of this early masterpiece.

Symphony No. 4

Michael Gielen
SWF Symphony Orchestra
April 1994
Intercord 860925

Michael Gielen has now recorded symphonies 3-5 and 7-9, and the Fourth that we include in this year's line-up is one of the best of the series. A note on the text: As Ben Korstvedt has recently discussed at this year's Bruckner Journal Conference in Birmingham, Nowak's edition of the 1874 version, played by Gielen, actually includes revisions Bruckner made to the autograph score of the symphony as late as 1876. A copy score of the original 1874 version was made, but it is partly lost. Also, another copy score from 1876 contains yet another variation on the early form of this symphony. So there are three early versions, but only one is published. Gielen's reading of the published 1876 (a.k.a. 1874) version is close to ideal, with swift tempi and superb orchestral work, especially from the brass. A cut near the end of the Scherzo is the only oddity in an otherwise spectacular reading.

Symphony No. 5

Roberto Paternostro
Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra
23 June 2001
EBS 6135

Although the name Roberto Paternostro is not a household name when it comes to Bruckner, since 1997 he has made recordings of the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh symphonies with the Württemberg Philharmonic for the orchestra's own label (Balance and then EBS -- see the discography at www.abruckner.com). Born and trained in Vienna under Hans Swarowsky, Paternostro worked as Karajan's assistant in Berlin and has since embarked on an international career that has put him at the helm of many of Europe's great orchestras. Paternostro's Fifth is characterized by clear textures with a beautifully shaped Adagio. Recorded live at the Weingarten Basilica, this recording features a special sonority that we find quite appropriate for the Fifth, especially in its magnificent Finale.

Symphony No. 6

Rafael Kubelik
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Dreamlife DVD DLVC-1184

Rafael Kubelik had a special affinity for the Sixth symphony, which we recognized before by playing his live recording with the Chicago Symphony in 1982 during our 2001 marathon (he had performed the symphony during its CSO premiere as early as 1951 when he was the orchestra's music director.) We now offer this performance with his Bavarian orchestra from five years earlier, which was released on DVD earlier this year in Japan. In contrast to the more relaxed Chicago performance, this reading from Munich presents us with a propulsive account that more vividly captures the boldness of the work, especially in its outer movements, while sacrificing none of the Adagio's great beauty. We are fortunate that this video has surfaced for us to enjoy during this year's party.

Symphony No. 7

Otto Klemperer
Philharmonia Orchestra
5 November 1960
EMI 567330

Otto Klemperer's recordings of Bruckner symphonies stretch from an early acoustic recording of the Adagio of the Eighth for Polydor made c.1924 to a complete, but brutally cut Eighth for EMI from 1972. In between there are numerous recordings of Symphonies 4-9 and we focus now on Klemperer's studio recording of the Seventh from 1960. Klemperer provides us with a faithful rendering of the Nowak edition, including not only the full percussion at the climax of the Adagio, but also what are likely to be the peskiest ritards ever recorded in the Finale.

Symphony No. 8

Lovro von Matacic
NHK Symphony Orchestra
7 March 1984
Denon CO-1001

This is one of the most beautifully recorded performances of a Bruckner symphony that we have heard and certainly the most intense of Matacic's three live recordings of this symphony to have surfaced (an earlier recording, also with the NHK SO, from 1975 has been released on the Altus label and another with a Czech radio orchestra has been released on the Living Stage label -- see the discography at abruckner.com). As usual with Matacic's Bruckner, tempi are on the fleet side, and he achieves a degree of tension from the Japanese players that will have the listener thinking the NHK SO to be one of the world's greatest orchestras. This is a fine testament to what the Croatian conductor, who was to die less than a year from the date of this performance, could achieve on the podium.

Symphony No. 9

Bernard Haitink
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra
12 November 1981
Philips 410039

Bernard Haitink recorded a complete analog Bruckner cycle with the Concertgebouw, which has been released on the Philips label. That cycle contained his earliest recording of the Ninth, dating from 1965. We have chosen his second (digital) recording for this year's marathon, which features more expansive tempi in the outer movements, but a faster Scherzo. As in the earlier recording, but brought out to more dramatic effect here, he adds a timpani part to reinforce the trombones and tuba in the coda to the first movement, a modification first used by Van Beinum and documented in a surviving recording dating from 1941 and also in his commercial (mono) recording for Philips in 1956. Here is a case of a conductor taking liberties with a score in a way that works! Interestingly, subsequent recordings by the Concertgebouw (i.e., Chailly's) or by Haitink with other orchestras, do not feature this effect.

Symphony No. 9 Finale, completed by William Carragan

Akira Naito
Tokyo New City Orchestra
28 September 2006
Delta Classics DCCA-0032

Akira Naito and the Tokyo New City Orchestra have been recording a series of Bruckner premieres. It began in 2004 with the performance of the Bruckner Eighth with an unpublished intermediate Adagio, most likely from the year 1888. Then in 2005 came the first performance of the new Korstvedt edition of the Fourth in its 1888 version. Most recently, in 2006, Naito and his orchestra performed and recorded the Ninth with a new completion of the Finale by William Carragan, and we include this Finale as the final entry in this year's marathon. Carragan's new completion utilizes all surviving bifolios of Bruckner's manuscript, filling the gaps in a seamless manner and providing an ingenious transition to the movement's coda, which ends triumphantly. The Tokyo New City Orchestra, with Naito's leadership, plays with great enthusiasm, and the live recording has perfectly captured the event. What will Naito do next? We hope that the Bruckner premieres will continue.