Composer: Anton Bruckner
Orchestra: Berlin German Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Kent Nagano
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Size: 248 MB
01. I. Majestoso
02. II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich
03. III. Scherzo. Nicht schnell
04. IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
A Masterful Reading of an Underappreciated Masterwork
What’s not to like about a symphony whose first performance was conducted by none other than Gustav Mahler?
As the scant liner notes for this recording say: “Bruckner’s sixth symphony is not easy to play, and not easy to listen to.” However, this recording makes it well worth the effort. Bruckner symphonies suffer from many short motifs, sudden contrasts of volume and tempo and it’s easy to get lost and say: “What was all that about?”
Here, the talented Californian conductor Kent Nagano (who is a prophet always better received away from his own home), gives a nuanced and intelligent reading of a symphony that deserves to join the seventh and eighth as Bruckner’s major late symphonies.
Nagano shows how to deal with the problem of Bruckner’s sudden contrasts. Firstly, he doesn’t come to abrupt stops–he pulls back at the end of loud passages with a subtle, high-controlled rallentando which stops that “falling off a cliff” feeling. Secondly, he keeps moving across the bar lines, carefully picking up pizzicato or staccato motifs in the accompaniment. This is world class conducting.
The performance demonstrates careful attention to rhythm and dynamics with a result that the music is not only interesting but truly beautiful, especially in the slow movement.
This is a recent release (2012) of a 2005 recording. The sound quality is excellent throughout enabling the listener to enjoy quadruple pppp sections. I think I heard one or two “burbs” in the brass and (to my ear) the intonation on the flutes wasn’t always perfect, but not enough to dissuade me from giving this a heartfelt top rating.