Magazine article Gramophone

Michael Gielen's Bruckner Challenge: Controversial and Exciting, a Set of Bruckner Symphonies Not to Miss; Plus Praga Offerings Both Great and So-So

Magazine article Gramophone

Michael Gielen's Bruckner Challenge: Controversial and Exciting, a Set of Bruckner Symphonies Not to Miss; Plus Praga Offerings Both Great and So-So

Article excerpt

Having relished the Vol 1 of SWR Music's Michael Gielen Edition back in June, I'm delighted to welcome Volume 2, which is devoted entirely to Bruckner's symphonies (nine out of a potential 11 completed works, that is), readings that, in the main, communicate a genuine love of the music and treat textural clarity as paramount.

Four special points of interest beg for attention. Firstly, there's the case of the Ninth Symphony, where having granted us a fine 1993 version as part of a previous edition (Intercord, 1994), Gielen ups the ante in terms of breadth and gravitas, the movement timings increasing from 22'27"/11'19"/24'45" on the earlier recording to 27'05"/12'04"/27'50" in 2013. In this later reading he is as patient and awe-inspiring as the young Jochum or, more controversially, the older (and even slower) Celibidache, though he is less individualistic than either. Go to the first movement's coda at 20'37" in the first version, then at 24'37" in the second: in the latter, note the extra clarity of the woodwinds (especially the characterful clarinet), the pounding basses, the powerful brass and timps and the recording's huge dynamic range. No contest.

The other three points all concern the chosen musical texts, and here we're not referring to the odd minor cut or spot of reorchestration. In the case of the Third Symphony (previously on Hanssler Classic), Gielen opts for the 1877 version in the 1981 edition by Feopold Nowak (with Scherzo coda)--as ever, John F Berky's online discography (abruckner.com) is an enormous help in identifying precisely which editions are used. This is the version--a very comprehensive one, though not overlong--also chosen by Harnoncourt, Sir Georg Solti, Bernard Haitink, Philippe Herreweghe, Osmo Vanska and Jaap van Zweden, and not to be confused with the more expansive 1873 'original version' recorded by Georg Tintner, Eliahu Inbal, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Sir Roger Norrington, Jonathan Nott and others.

In the case of the Eighth Symphony, Gielen's choice of the 1887 'original version' (ed Feopold Nowak, 1972) finds him in the company of Inbal, Tintner, Kent Nagano, Franz Welser-Most and Simone Young. As with the 'original' Fourth (1874)--which is also included here --there are significant differences between this and the more familiar revisions. This first local release of a 2007 performance of the Eighth is inordinately slow (95'47" compared with Inbal's 75'35"), milking Bruckner's discursive first thoughts for all they're worth: for example, the unexpected swing into the major that concludes the first movement (from 17'20"), and various other episodes where tales of the unexpected predominate. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.