2010 Bruckner Marathon

The 2010 Bruckner Marathon was held on 4 September 2010 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 186th 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

Overture in G minor

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
6-10 March 2001
Oehms Classics OC 208

Skrowaczewski recorded a complete cycle of all 11 Bruckner symphonies with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, several of which have been included in our prior marathon play lists. We have chosen to lead off this year's marathon with Skrowaczewski's recording of the Overture in G minor. After a startling thunder of timpani and a slow introduction, Skrowaczewski launches into a swift reading of the overture that is interspersed with beautifully shaped moments of repose. It is a classical reading with dominant strings and well balanced winds, which ends with a majestic coda.

Symphony No. 0

Eliahu Inbal
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
January 1990
Teldec 2292-46330-2

Eliahu Inbal also recorded a complete cycle of all 11 Bruckner symphonies, all with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. His cycle has the distinction of including some of the earliest recordings of the 1873 Third, 1876 Fourth, and 1887 Eighth. Inbal tends to favor brisk tempi in his Bruckner recordings, but his Nullte is one of the slower readings of this score. The members of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra obviously have Bruckner in their blood.

Symphony No. 1

Georg Solti
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
February 1995
Decca 448 898-2

Georg Solti recorded Symphonies 0 through 9 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra between the years 1979 and 1995. It is a fairly uneven cycle, with brass that tend to blaze a bit too brilliantly, and Solti's interpretation of the Bruckner Third seems to be based on Richard Wagner's nickname for Bruckner: "Bruckner the Trumpet". However, the final two installments in the cycle, Symphonies 0 and 1, both recorded in 1995, are very different. Solti's Nullte was included in last year's marathon, and now we present his First. Once again, Solti chooses brisk tempi, and he allows the CSO strings to dominate the proceedings. The winds, including the brass, add an appropriate level of color to the picture.

Symphony No. 2

Wolfgang Sawallisch
Bavarian State Orchestra
Private Label DVD

Wolfgang Sawallisch has made commercial recordings of Bruckner's First, Fifth, Sixth and Ninth symphonies with the Bavarian State Orchestra, all of which have been released on the Orfeo label. To this series, we are happy to add this performance of the Second symphony (aired in Germany by the ZDF Theaterkanal on 19 June 2005) dating from 1985. Sawallisch opts for the 1877 version, edited by Nowak (observing all cuts), which has in recent years given way to the original version of 1872. The conductor gives us an enjoyable performance that shows Bruckner's early work as a bright precursor of the great symphonic work that would come in the future.

Symphony No. 3

Simone Young
Hamburg Philharmonic
14-16 October 2006
Oehms Classics OC 624

Simone Young appears to be working her way through a complete Bruckner symphony cycle, and recordings of the Second, Third, Fourth, and Eighth, all with the Hamburg Philharmonic, have appeared thus far on the Oehms Classics label. As with the others in the series, Young's Third employs the first version of the score, completed in 1873. The conductor turns in a powerful reading of the score, with some particularly broad tempi in the first movement. Throughout the proceedings, the Hamburg Philharmonic plays idiomatically, with dark, powerful brass and thundering timpani.

Symphony No. 4

Eduard van Beinum
Concertgebouw Orchestra
Private Label CD
[According to the Discography at abruckner.com, the recording date is June 1952, but the end of the symphony follows the Nowak edition, published in 1953.]

Eduard van Beinum gave us admired commercial recordings of the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth symphonies with the Concertgebouw (he recorded the Seventh twice for Decca and the Eighth and Ninth for Philips). A subsequent release of a live 1959 recording of the Fifth on various labels and yet another release of this live recording of the Fourth on Audiophile Classics (Audiophile 101.543) have become a further addition. The Audiophile Classics release suffers from some sonic problems (overfiltering, uneven equalization, dynamic compression, etc.) We are pleased to present this discovery in the best available sound up to now. According to the Concertgebouw's Bruckner discography (Bruckner en het Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, THOTH, 1997, p. 1953) Van Beinum conducted a total of 12 performances of this symphony with the Concertgebouw in the period 1932-1958, of which four took place in 1952 (on 19, 21 and 22 June and on 18 September). This performance captures the conductor and orchestra at the peak of their partnership and is a special document in equal measure for Bruckner, Van Beinum and Concertgebouw Orchestra enthusiasts. We only hope that a legitimate release becomes available in the future.

Symphony No. 5

Wilhelm Furtwängler
Berlin Philharmonic
25-28 October 1942
Opus Kura OPK 7013

Wilhelm Furtwängler was one of the most influential conductors of the Twentieth Century, who is closely identified with the music of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, and Wagner. We are fortunate that complete recordings of Furtwängler conducting Bruckner's Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth symphonies have survived. Despite the qualities of the post-war performances, it is to the wartime performances that one must turn to hear Furtwängler at his most inspired. A prime example is the Bruckner Fifth that we present here. This is certainly one of the fastest Fifths in the discography, but it is also one of the deepest and fiercest interpretations as well. The main question we faced was what transfer to use. We are also familiar with an excellent transfer of this performance on the Melodiya label as well as Aaron Snyder's excellent transfer on the Music & Arts label, but we have chosen the less well known Opus Kura transfer. Opus Kura has used a pristine Melodiya LP as their source, and their transfer has very little in the way of noise reduction (if any at all) and sound built from the bottom up, as was Furtwängler's way. Thus we have an accurate rendering of how an earlier generation first enjoyed this performance.

Adagio from the String Quintet

Herbert Blomstedt
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
6 June 1997
Decca CD 458 964-2

Bruckner's most successful chamber music composition, the String Quintet in F major, composed in 1879 after the Fifth symphony, has been the subject of a few orchestral arrangements. In a previous marathon we have played the Stadlmair orchestral arrangement of the entire Quintet with the Bamberg Symphony under the direction of Lothar Zagrosek (Orfeo CD C348 951A). This year we have chosen Blomstedt's recording of the Adagio in the same arrangement for a small string orchestra (reinforced with double basses). The arrangement is quite faithful to the original, but with an added sonority that adds depth and a sense of gravitas, without ever sounding heavy.

Symphony No. 6

Ingo Metzmacher
Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra
3 Sept. 2005
Private Label CD

German conductor Ingo Metzmacher (born in Hanover 1957) is one of today's most sought-after conductors of his generation. He has held important posts in Hamburg, Netherlands Opera and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and has conducted as a guest most of the world's great orchestras. He had a great recording success when his recordings of all of Hartmann's symphonies (with the Bamberg Symphony) were released by EMI in the year 2000. In 2005 Metzmacher conducted the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in several performances of Bruckner's Sixth symphony (another live recording from the Lucerne Festival earlier in the 2005 is also available on at least one private label -- we have selected this performance from Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart, because of its superior sound). Metzmacher takes a fresh approach to this symphony, with generally fleet tempi and a beautifully read Adagio that flows, but never sounds rushed. As with several other recordings under Claudio Abbado, we can hear that the GMYO is an orchestra to be reckoned with.

Symphony No. 7

Lovro von Matacic
Czech Philharmonic
27-30 March 1967
Japanese Victor XRCD JM-XR24204

Croatian conductor (and composer) Lovro von Matacic made this celebrated recording of the Seventh symphony for Supraphon in 1967, which was originally released by Supraphon and by Columbia in the LP era, and was subsequently released by Supraphon and Denon on CD (this recording has seen at least a dozen different releases -- see the discography at abruckner.com). For this marathon, we have chosen the latest Japanese remastering on a 24-bit XRCD (a 2-CD release!) that is probably the best sounding release this recording will ever get. Matacic follows rather deliberate tempi in the first two movements without ever sounding slack and, in effective contrast, selects flowing tempi in the last two movements. Throughout he is supported by a wonderful Czech Philharmonic with its characteristic woodwind section and a brass section featuring the distinctive vibrato of the European orchestras of yesteryear (they don't sound like that anymore!) We are quite pleased to share this recording with attendees to this year's event.

Symphony No. 8

Takashi Asahina
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
28 September & 1 October 1998
Fontec FOCD 9362-9363

As a follow-up to last year's enthusiastically received Bruckner Fourth conducted by Asahina, this year we present one of Asahina's performances of the Bruckner Eighth. Asahina's Eighth tended to get faster as the conductor aged. A 1980 performance with the Osaka Philharmonic, recorded live in St. Mary's Cathedral, Tokyo took 88 minutes, while the final two Eighths in Asahina's discography, both from live performances with the Osaka Philharmonic in 2001, clock in at 76 minutes and 79 minutes, respectively. In addition, the final Eighths tend to have lighter brass playing. After reviewing 8 recordings of the Eighth by Asahina, we have selected the recording made just prior to the final two, based on live performances with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in 1998. At 81 minutes, this performance strikes a good balance in terms of tempi, and the sound of the orchestra is a perfect demonstration of Asahina's style, with the sound built from the ground up. The lower brass and lower strings of the TMSO provide a rock solid foundation upon which the rest of the orchestra rides.

Symphony No. 9

Zubin Mehta
Vienna Philharmonic
15 February 2009
Private Label CD

Zubin Mehta made a celebrated recording of the Ninth symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1965 at the beginning of his career (now available on a Decca CD and on a Universal Music SACD hybrid disc). During the spring of 2009 he conducted the VPO on a tour of Europe and North America where he conducted the Ninth in Vienna, Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles (one of us was fortunate to attend the Los Angeles performance and it will remain an unforgettable experience). For this year's marathon we have selected the live recording from Vienna, made at the beginning of last year's tour. When compared to the earlier recording, Mehta is swifter in the outer movements while marginally more relaxed in the Scherzo. Overall, this is an interpretation of a more mature conductor (he was only 29 when the earlier recording was made!) and the VPO responded marvelously to his evolved concept of the work.