2012 Bruckner Marathon

Carlsbad, California
1 September 2012

Program Notes

Symphony in F minor

Marcus Bosch
Aachen Symphony Orchestra
26 & 28 May 2012
Coviello 31215

We begin this year's marathon with a brand new recording of the F-minor symphony, with Marcus Bosch conducting the Aachen Symphony Orchestra. We have played Bosch's Bruckner Third, Seventh, and Ninth in prior marathons. After releasing Bosch's recordings of Symphonies 1-9 individually, Coviello has released a boxed set containing the nine numbered symphonies plus a bonus CD with the two unnumbered symphonies, which is not planned for individual release. Bosch chooses fleet tempi, much to the work's benefit, and the members of the orchestra play with spirit and really dig in when needed. It is good to welcome this symphony back to our marathon line-up after being absent for several years.

Symphony No. 1

Gerd Schaller
Philharmonie Festiva
July 2011
Profil 12022

Gerd Schaller (born in Bamberg in 1965) has embarked upon recording what is likely to be a complete Bruckner cycle, of which symphonies 1-3 and 4, 7 and 9 have already been released on the Profil label. These live performances with the Philharmonie Festiva (a pickup orchestra made up with musicians from the Munich area) have given us the world premiere recordings of the 1874 version of the Third symphony and the Ninth symphony with the latest version of the finale completed by William Carragan. (The world premiere recording of the "1888" version of the Eighth, also edited by Carragan, was recorded in July.) For the First symphony, Schaller uses the very first version that Bruckner completed in 1866 and premiered in 1868, the so-called Linz version in its earliest form, which is basically the same version that Georg Tintner recorded for his Naxos cycle. (Other recordings of the Linz version actually use the 1877 revision.) Schaller gives us a vibrant and exciting reading of this early symphony emphasizing the boldness of the work with its romantic influences.

Symphony No. 0

Dennis Russell Davies
Bruckner Orchester Linz
23 November 2008
Arte Nova 74975

Dennis Russell Davies has recorded a nearly complete cycle of Bruckner's Symphonies 0-9 with the Bruckner Orchester Linz, and the cycle has been released by Arte Nova. Another Eighth, recorded in St. Florian in 2002, was included in the line-up of our marathon 9 years ago. This year we present Davies' recording of Symphony No. 0. As might be expected, the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz has no trouble delivering idiomatic Bruckner. Davies mainly chooses moderate tempi, and the orchestra delivers a solid performance. But Davies is holding back and saving something for the end. Be prepared to fasten your seatbelts as the symphony comes to a close.

Symphony No. 2

Otmar Suitner
NHK Symphony Orchestra
21 November 1980
King KKC-2009~2010

Otmar Suitner recorded Symphonies 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 with the Staatskapelle Berlin during the final years of the Deutsche Schallplatten label in East Germany. All of these have been released on CD by Berlin Classics and, most recently, in Japan by King Records. Fortunately, King Records has also released some recordings of Suitner conducting the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and the present Bruckner Second is one of these. He follows the Haas text, but he excludes all of the vi-de passages except for the first one in the finale. He also skips the final repeat of the trio. While many of Suitner's Bruckner performances tended to be on the fast side (particularly his Fifth), Suitner and the NHK Symphony Orchestra give us a big and solid Second, with strong brass and timpani.

Symphony No. 3

Herbert Blomstedt
Leipzig Gewandhausorchester Orchestra
23-24 September 2010
Querstand 1017

Herbert Blomstedt celebrated his 85th birthday in July, and he is certainly no stranger to the music of Bruckner. His recordings of the Fourth and Seventh with the Staatskapelle Dresden were favorites of the early digital era. He went on to record Symphonies 4 and 6 in San Francisco and Symphony 9 in Leipzig for Decca. Now, Blomstedt has recently completed a cycle of the nine numbered symphonies with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for Querstand. Blomstedt has long been a champion of the 1873 version, but he avoids overinflating this longer version of the Third. Strings dominate, and brass never overpower.

The recording we have chosen is actually Blomstedt's second Bruckner Third with the Gewandhaus Orchestra on the Querstand label; the earlier one is part of a box set celebrating Blomstedt's tenure as music director of the orchestra.

Symphony No. 4

Kurt Sanderling
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Profil 05020

Kurt Sanderling died on 17 September 2011, just two days short of his 100th birthday, having been retired from the podium during the last ten years of his life. His is not a name one usually associates with Bruckner, but we have chosen this live recording of the Fourth to pay tribute to a conductor who spanned many decades of music-making through East and West (he conducted in the Soviet Union for many years and became a close friend of the composer Dimitri Shostakovich, some of whose symphonies he recorded in East Germany with the Berlin Symphony). Sanderling's Fourth is reminiscent of Klemperer's approach to Bruckner, with broad tempi and emphasis on the long orchestral line, a kapellmeister in the good sense of the word.

Symphony No. 5

Claudio Abbado
Lucerne Festival Orchestra
19-20 August 2011
Accentus DVD 20243

Claudio Abbado has a number of Bruckner recordings to his credit. He recorded Symphonies 1, 4, 5, 7, and 9 with the Vienna Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1990s. His most recent Bruckner releases have been video recordings with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra: first a recording of the Seventh (included in our 2006 line-up) and now a recording of the Fifth. Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra deliver a well-balanced performance, with everything in proper perspective.

Symphony No. 6

Daniel Barenboim
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
December 1978
Deutsche Grammophon 4779803

Daniel Barenboim has recorded two complete Bruckner cycles and the cycle with the CSO, made when he was in his thirties, marked him as a conductor who was serious about Bruckner at a relatively early age. This CSO cycle has the honor of being the first complete Bruckner cycle by an American orchestra (Solti followed suit with the same orchestra later). From this early cycle we have selected what we believe was his best effort. This Sixth is eloquent, heartfelt in the Adagio and played with great commitment by the Chicago orchestra, an effort that Barenboim did not improve upon in his second traversal with the Berlin Philharmonic for Teldec.

Symphony No. 7

Michael Gielen
SWF Symphony Orchestra
December 1986
Intercord 860901

Michael Gielen (born in Austria in 1927) has recorded all of Bruckner's symphonies from the Third onwards with the SWF/SWR Symphony Orchestra. Gielen's Seventh bears a lot in common with a famous recording made by his illustrious predecessor, Hans Rosbaud, with the same orchestra in the late 50s for Vox. Gielen chooses fleet tempi and gives us a muscular reading of this symphony, which can often sound distended in the hands of conductors who favor excessively broad tempi (we won't mention any names!) While Rosbaud favored the Haas edition with the absence of percussion parts in the great Adagio's climax, Gielen mostly follows the Nowak edition, but leaves out the cymbal clash. This tends to make this climax less theatrical, but his reading leaves you with a sense of energy and excitement that is seldom matched by most modern conductors.

Symphony No. 8

Günther Herbig
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie
23 June 2002
Perc Pro 50142011

Günther Herbig (born in 1931), former music director of the Detroit Symphony (1984-1990) is also not a household name when it comes to Bruckner. The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie is the new name of the orchestra created by the fusion in 2007 of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony (with whom Skrowaczewski recorded his Bruckner cycle for Arte Nova) and the SWR Radio Orchestra from Kaiserslautern. Herbig was music director of the former, with which this recording was made, from 2001-2006. A companion recording of the Bruckner Seventh has also been released on the same two-cd set to commemorate the conductor's 80th birthday, and they constitute a fine tribute to a conductor whose Bruckner is rare on records. In the Eighth Herbig follows a mixture of the Haas and Nowak editions and gives us an exciting reading in exceptionally good sound.

Symphony No. 9

Bruno Walter
Philadelphia Orchestra
28 February 1948
Music & Arts 1262

Bruno Walter was a devoted Brucknerian, and he made the Ninth a specialty. Five live performances of the Ninth have now been published, compared to one each of the Fourth, Seventh, and Eighth. (An additional live recording of the Ninth with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, from a concert just a few days prior to his studio recording, has not yet been published.) Walter's recordings of the Ninth with the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic are certainly worthy, but the performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra, recently refurbished by Aaron Snyder and issued by Music & Arts, has an intensity that is absolutely stunning. It could have been due to this being the first time the Philadelphia Orchestra performed the Bruckner Ninth. Here is a performance of the Ninth that could be in the same league as Furtwängler's wartime performance.