Music News & Info: Classical

My musical resolution for the New Year: give Bruckner symphonies another chance (recommendations welcome)

Eeny, meeny, miny . . .

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m conflicted when it comes to Anton Bruckner’s music.  A cappella motets?  Absolutely love ’em.  Choral works with an orchestra?  Sure.  But the symphonies?  Eh, well . . . I’ve tried, but now I usually make a point of avoiding them whenever possible.

We have recordings of a few of the symphonies in our collection:

  • 4th (Salonen/Los Angeles Philharmonic)
  • 5th (Haitink/Vienna Philharmonic)
  • 7th (Walter/Columbia Symphony)
  • 8th (one by Karajan/Vienna, another by Haitink/Concergebouw)

In addition, I’ve seen the 4th and 7th performed live. With all that previous exposure, I can appreciate his works on an  intellectual basis for its technical and sonic machinations — but they don’t grab me, say, like Stravinsky, Mahler, or Lutoslawski does (or to a slightly lesser extent, Shostakovich or Sibelius).

  • I can also appreciate the Ligeti Requiem for both intellectual and technical reasons, and I really have no desire to pay good money to ever see or hear that performed again.  In comparison, I’ve usually found Bruckner symphonies to be more tolerable, but less interesting.

In any case, I was enjoying some of the Bruckner choral works over the holidays, and I figured that I needed to reconsider his symphonic ouvre.  Therefore, as a New Year’s resolution,  I’ve decided to make an effort to “get into” Bruckner.

I’m gonna start with the 9th symphony, partly because I want to try something I don’t know at all, and also in anticipation of seeing it performed live later this year with Simon Rattle conducting.  Haven’t yet decided which recording to go with, so . . .

If anyone wants to recommend a specific (perhaps “better” or more “definitive”) recording of the piece, please feel free to offer it up.   I’d be eternally grateful.

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8 thoughts on “My musical resolution for the New Year: give Bruckner symphonies another chance (recommendations welcome)

  1. For the Ninth, you can do no better than Giulini with Chicago, though his recording with Vienna Phil is also, I hear, also supreme.

    As you know, I’m very partial to Karajan’s Fourth with the Berliners on DG … the first recording, not the second.

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  2. In mid-1970s i heard a live performance of the Ninth by the Concertgebouw with Haitink. The terrifying sound of the Scherzo is still in my ears after about 35 years. It was quite magnificent. If there is a recording available of this symphony performed by them from around that time, it should be a good one.

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  3. I have really enjoyed the recordings made by Eugen Jochum with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchestra. I think Deutsche Grammaphon still offers them as a boxed set. I am not sure if the Motets and Te Deum are included, but his recordings of that are gorgeous, as well.

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  4. How did you go? You might give the early symphonies a try (0-3), Tintner on Naxos is the best recommendation for all of these.

    For the later symphonies, Wand made some wonderful recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic.

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    • Thanks, David. I ended up with Giulini and Walter versions of the 9th. Good stuff. Moreover, the version of the 9th that Rattle & the LA Phil did live at WDCH was spectacular. Since then, Bruckner is continuing to slowly grow on me . . .

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