Bernard Haitink & London Symphony Orchestra started their Bruckner cycle with this album. Haitink’s previous releases on LSO Live (Beethoven: Complete Symphonies & Triple Concerto & Strauss: Ein Alpensinfonie) are very good, & now he continues this line. Bernard Haitink is internationally renowned for his interpretations of Bruckner and is widely recognised as the world’s leading Bruckner conductor.
Of Anton Bruckner’s 11 symphonies, the perennially popular 7th in E major is his most consistently melodious, evenly paced, & lyrically flowing, with comparatively few false starts, awkward pauses, or tedious fanfares. For this exceptional hybrid SACD from PentaTone, Yakov Kreizberg & the Vienna Symphony deliver 1 of the smoothest & roundest performances of the symphony heard in years. Yet it might actually be too polished for the liking of some old-guard Bruckner fans, who may argue that the orchestra is too mellow, luscious, & soft, & that Kreizberg’s inflections & phrases are too nuanced & sensual for the composer’s pure, almost sacred, intentions. But more important than the undeniably rich tonal quality found here is the interpretation, which draws on the style of Wagner’s most ardent music; some of the more ecstatic passages of Lohengrin & Tristan und Isolde may come to mind when one hears this disc.
Following his CPO recording with the Tapiola Sinfonietta of Anton Bruckner's Symphony in D minor, "Die Nullte," and the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Mario Venzago presents the Symphony No. 2 in C minor, this time with the Northern Sinfonia. Unlike some contemporary conductors who favor the original 1872 version of this symphony, Venzago performs the more familiar 1877 version, edited by William Carragan. This is the first of Bruckner's symphonies where he expanded the form to an hour duration, and the fertile ideas it contains are appropriate to the greater time frame. Yet this work has never been accepted by audiences in the way most of the later symphonies have, such as the Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth, and the music falters over too many starts and stops, indecisive development, and repetitions. Even so, there is much attractive material here, and Venzago brings it off with a light touch, having the orchestra play delicately and sweetly, almost as if this were a Mendelssohn symphony.
For his project of recording the complete symphonies of Anton Bruckner on CPO, Mario Venzago has chosen to record each symphony with a different orchestra to re-create the sounds that Bruckner would have heard. Considering that Bruckner's experiences with orchestras spanned three decades, he would have witnessed growth of the orchestra's size and the introduction of new instruments, which clearly influenced his decisions when he composed and revised each work. Venzago performs the Symphony No. 8 in C minor with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, following the 1890 version and employing the same instrumentation and ensemble scale, as well as traditional practices that are documented in performances from that period. The result is an Eighth that sounds strikingly different from the other symphonies, quite far removed from the early Romantic orchestra he used in the First, and considerably expanded from the ensembles he would have expected for the Fourth or even the Seventh symphonies.
The 6th Symphony of Anton Bruckner was recorded live for SACD in December 2013 at two concerts in the Hamburg Laeiszhalle. Here, too, critics were unanimous in their enthusiasm, as could be read in the Hamburger Abendblatt of 16 December 2013.