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NUC MED TECH
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11-29-2013 There are three or so recordings I believe to be the best of this 4th Symphony of Anton Bruckner, and this is one of them. Perhaps in order of 1,2,and 3, this NDR Suymphony orchestraperformance by Gunther Wand on rCa is the top or second best. The "other best" would be the 1972 taping by Daniel Barenboim and the great chiago symphony Orchestra s part of Bruckner cycle for dGG and to be considered one of the three is ruly an honor. There are so many readings of this most popular of the composer's works. It seems that everyone and his brother recorded this sublime symphony, some better than others. The complete list of mine reads, not necessarily in order of best to least, Barenboim/CSO---Wand?ndr---Bohm/VPO----then perhaps Tennstedt, walter, Solti, Jochum, Karajan, Klemperer,and so on and so on and so on. The list runs into the night, longer than most lists. It is a symphony it seems everyone wants to take on,basic repertoire of the highest power and eloquence, a sort of "right of passsage"for an up nd coming conductor. Indeed, it IS a bsic repertoire item and CAN be said to be a right of passage due to it's demannd of fundamental skills and abilities that a good conductor must posess in order to become on e of the elect
Suprisingly, the chore of recording the "Romantic" isn't that difficult. Why, the symphony almost plays itself. The themesareclear, the rhythmsare sdteadry and the layout,classical in form, is rather straight forward. So,why do we ever have any poor recordings of this masterpiece? Probablybecause someconductors, like men anywhere, try to readd into this music things that arn'treallythere. It is pride that lays at the feet of thisfailing, and , conductors DO havesomedealingswith pride.(L. O. L.). One must remember, above all, that Bruckner was somewhat of a simpleton, but still a geneous. Howcan this be/ two nature's juxtaposedagainst each other?His form and sophistication inthe scoring has many moments of grand beauty and complex thematic development, but, a the core , beats the heart of a simpleman. A romantic, a dreamer a hero. Not, the least unlike many other men, the Austrian Master was of humble birth and raised in the Bavarian Roman Catholic faith. Indeed, when the composer turned 10, his fatrher died and Frau Bruckner took little anton to the local augustinian Monastary,St. Florian's , to beg admission for him, to have one less mouth tofeed. Anton was acceptedby the kindlyAbbee in charge, Michael Provost, and it was there that the future composer first heard the excellent baroque organ in the chapel and became determine to maser it, and master it he did. as he grw into a young man, he had formed himselfinto a superb improvisationist and eventually was appointed organist at the cathedral of Linz, austria. Trips to London and vienna to give organ conncerts spread his fame and by the time he had turned into his early40's, he began a long distance arraingment with the master of counterpoint,one simaon aSchecter, then residing in the musiccapitlof the continent, vienna. once a year the composer traveled to personally meet with his teacher and take exsaminations.While auditioning for the Linz organist post, one member of the jury said, "It is he whoshould be judging us!" During the tutulage of Schecter,the eldermaster forbade Anton to compose anything, but of course, the oung man could not supress rthe musical ideas swirling around in his imagination. In --------------,bruckner teamed up with Otto Kitzler,the leader and principalcellist of the Linz theater orchesgtra who instructed him in orchestration, theory and, aboveall, firt exposed the composer to the music ofWagner by showing nton the score for "Tristan und Isolde.' bruckner was electrified and became a disciple of the greaat german opera composeralmost instantly. He cared little,if at all, asto the convoluted and often confussing plots and psychological basis of wgnerian operas, an was unmovedlargelyby rthe intrigues of the "RinG". or any of the other mythologicalepicssuch as Tannhauser, Lohengrin or Rienzi. He was facinated by the orchestralscores and , we are told, he had a seat at the bavarian opera from which he had only a partial view of the stage and the singers,but a bird's eye view of the orchestral pit, by which he could follow,with score in hand, virtually the entire opera. This was, for Bruckner, a evelation. He had never imagined in his wildest dreams,musiccould sound like this, like the epic strains that were Wagnerian grand opera.
The story goes that once, during a performance of DIE Meistersinger, Wagner, seated behind Bruckner in a box, chided his younger friend for applauding an orchestral piece within the opera too loudly and enthusiastically. Wagner, apparently,thought Anton's behaviortoo excited and demonstrative. and, of course, there is the famousstoryof the bruckner3rdSymphony,which anton dedicated to Wagner and just before it's premiere, tobe ledby Johann Herbeck, the conductor died suddenlyand , against better advise, the composer took the baton and the result ws a disaster. The premiere wsa completeand utter failure,with whistlesand cat-calls from the audianceand, wordt of all, a scathing review by vienna's top critic, Eduard Hanslick, whihated wagner and Liszt,the purveyors of the 'new music",nd saw these men as threats to beethoven, bach and Brahms. In fact, Hanslick, at the vienna premiere of the composer's magnificent 8th symphony, having left afterthe Adagio,refered to this music as "sick" and 'repellant" and cruelly refered to the composeras"having comsedlike a drunckard". astonishing, to say the least, that such glorious and celestialmusic, such as the nearly 30 minute Adagio in the 8th Symphony should be insulted so. One critic said that Bruckner's clothes looked as though they had be "built by a carpenter,"altthough that caould be taken toungue in cheek,butnot like hanslick'sdiaribe. the Critic reallyhated Wagnerand anyone who admired the great but morallyflawedgeneous of 11 operas, was Hanslick's enemy as well.
PLease excuse my long-windedness, but here , finally, is my point in this review. Anton Bruckner, despite all the opposition and personal attacks,still managed to createone of muisc's greatest treasuresin this 4th symphonyi in E-Flat Major. this recording by Wand is overall perhaps THE best of the best. it has more weight than Barenboim'sprincipally due to betterheft in therecordingprocess, butonlyby a sliverover the DGG Chicago Symphony performanceby a young ( age 35) conductor and future Music directior of the great Windy City band. Actually, for me , it's a deadheat, both on the sameplane. Own them both!!!The completeboxed cycle by Barenboim, I'll review later, is a great bargain, still available here on amazon for about $$______________________ and the NDR recordings, now released individually,are just as low priced. Don'twait,friends,treat yourself to someof the finest works in history. I gladlyawardthis 4th a blazing and enthusiastic 5 stars, morfeif I were allowed. yet another argument for Amazonrevising their star system upwards. Perhaps rthey will. bestand kindest regards,and happylistening. GodBlessYou all, Tony.