Bruckner: Symphonies Nos 1-9 (9CD)

BR Klassik
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Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, Bernard Haitink, Herbert Blomstedt

Bruckner's symphonies form the backbone of Late Romantic symphonic music. Indeed, he can be said to have reinvented the symphony – something that not even Liszt or Wagner had dared to do in the wake of the groundbreaking masterpieces by Beethoven that until then had ranked as the climax and end-point of the genre. It was Bruckner and, somewhat later, Brahms who sought and found new methods of reviving the symphonic genre and developing it further. In this regard, Bruckner's approach was entirely new. From the outset, he relied on the sound of the large orchestra, and rather than mixing the individual groups of instruments he tended to either separate them from each other or couple them together like organ registers (with which, as an organist, he was very familiar). Terraced dynamics, that is, the immediate juxtaposition of piano and forte without transition, was also something Bruckner derived from the organ. As a church musician, he had close contact with these and other elements of Baroque music, and they flowed into his symphonies. As far as dramaturgical development was concerned, he tended to favour Schubert; indeed, it was the organic continuation and alternating interconnection of themes Bruckner had learned from Schubert that also explains the unprecedented performance length of his symphonies.

Bruckner's Nine Symphonies are a constant in the repertoire of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, as in those of all major orchestras. The special feature of the 9 CD box being presented here by BR KLASSIK is that the recordings are conducted by not only one but a total of four conductors closely associated with the orchestra, all of them proven international Bruckner experts. More than in any other compilation, common features in interpretation (also due to the same orchestra) as well as fascinating differences due to the various interpretive approaches of the respective conductors can all be detected. In these recordings it also becomes clear what brilliant contributions Herbert Blomstedt, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons and Lorin Maazel have made over the decades to Bruckner’s symphonic oeuvre.

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Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, WAB 101 (1877 Linz version)
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Adagio
3 III. Scherzo: Schnell
4 IV. Finale: Bewegt, feurig

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, WAB 102 (1877 version)
1 I. Ziemlich schnell
2 II. Andante: Feierlich, etwas bewegt
3 III. Scherzo: Mäßig schnell
4 IV. Finale: Mehr schnell

Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, WAB 103 (1889 version)
1 I. Mehr langsam, misterioso
2 II. Adagio: Bewegt, quasi andante
3 III. Scherzo: Ziemlich schnell
4 IV. Finale: Allegro

Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major, WAB 104, "Romantic
1 I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell
2 II. Andante quasi allegretto
3 III. Scherzo: Bewegt
4 IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell

Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major, WAB 105 (1878 version)
1 I. Adagio - Allegro
2 II. Adagio
3 III. Scherzo: Molto vivace
4 IV. Finale: Adagio - Allegro moderato

Symphony No. 6 in A Major, WAB 106 (1881 version)
1 I. Maestoso
2 II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich
3 III. Scherzo: Nicht schnell - Trio: Langsam
4 IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell

Symphony No. 7 in E Major, WAB 107
1 I. Allegro moderato
2 II. Adagio: sehr feierlich und sehr langsam
3 III. Scherzo: sehr schnell
4 IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht schnell

Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, WAB 108 (1890 edition)
1 I. Allegro moderato
2 II. Scherzo: Allegro moderato
3 III. Adagio
4 IV. Finale: Feierlich, nicht schnell

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, WAB 109 (Original 1894)
1 I. Feierlich, misterioso
2 II. Scherzo: Bewegt, lebhaft
3 III. Adagio: Langsam feierlich

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The Classical Music Collector

"The same can also be said of Bruckner, of course. In fact, when I was young, Mahler and Bruckner were frequently tethered together, as in the Master Musicians series of books, obscuring how immensely different the two composers are. Despite Bruckner’s overt channelling of Beethoven and Wagner, the influence of Schubert at his most sublime seems to me the key to Bruckner: music that has no truck with the ephemeral, the transitory, but concerns itself with eternals. Bruckner is as emotionally direct as Mahler, but the emotions each expresses hardly overlap; for me, Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony is one of the pinnacle works of all music. And yet, orchestras rarely perform Bruckner in public, and when they do it is almost always one of the last three of his symphonies; this is a great loss for us listeners, as the earlier Bruckner symphonies are worthwhile and particularly fascinating as they reveal the slow evolution of the composer’s vision. In this companion BR Klassik box set, the conductors who guide us through the Bruckner cosmos are Blomstedt, Haitink, Jansons, and Maazel—Bruckner specialists, all—again in live performances with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra." - Chris Dench