27 July 2009

Harnoncourt's Bruckner commercial releases

Although I can say that he is not a conductor that I really fancy, I have to confess that to me, his interpretation is mostly a love-it or hate-it polarization. His recordings are relatively recent and thus sound good, and coupled with good orchestras (RCO, BPO and VPO), they are worth listening to.

The cover photos are scary to many though. Just look into his stare and you'll understand. I remember very well that when my youngest son, then only 10, took a look at his B4 cover "portrait", he asked a very naive and funny question, "Dad, is it horror music?" Well, his over-manipulation sometimes amounts to horror. I particularly dislike his lack of legato in phrasing in many passages, and his preference to rhetoric (in his own words) more often than not disrupts the natural flow of music. However, his treatment of the Trios is usually excellent, thanks to his mastery of the dance rhythm. Maybe he is too entrenched in his period instrument performance style. He is not a big architect in Bruckner's gigantic symphonic structures. He can build good small huts, so listening to excerpts of his recordings can be very misleading. Beauty here and there in small compartmentalised areas, but holism is wanting.

Will he record the 6th to complete a mini-cycle of the 3rd to the 9th? If superstition is anything to go by, he is in a precarious position! Sinopoli died before he could finish his Staatskapelle Dresden mini-cycle, and Gunter Wand had the same fate with his Berlin Philharmonic mini-cycle, both lacking the 6th. Blomstedt is "wise" in recording the Bruckner symphonies with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in the descending order, the 8th, then the 7th and now the 6th, which has just been issued. I hope Harnoncourt can escape from the "curse of the 6th". I wish him well.
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21 July 2009

Kubelik's Beethoven Ninth

Kubelik completed his Beethoven symphonies cycle with 9 different orchestras. Crisp, light and lyrical. A joy to listen to. Really worth the wait for this reissue.
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20 July 2009

Horenstein's Beethoven Ninth

Horenstein conducted the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (name changed to Pro Musica Symphony for contractual reasons) in a reading characterized by attention to details and orchestral balance, blessed with fully committed choral singing. A cycle not to be missed.
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19 July 2009

Michael Gielen's Beethoven Ninth

A fulfilling conclusion to his under-rated Beethoven symphonies cycle.

Energetic playing with no hint of overindulgence. Able to rival with the best versions.
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18 July 2009

Gunter Wand's Bruckner CDs

Just now I took a look at my collection of Gunter Wand's Bruckner CDs. I've got nearly all of his "official" commercial releases from EMI/RCA/BMG, Profil and TDK (DVDs) except his 6th and 9th with Munich Pilharmonic. I have to go and get these two.

Wand is one of my favourite Bruckner conductors, and I've been to his performances with NDR at the Edinburgh Festival and his last appearance in Japan in November 2000. What experiences!

When one is getting to a certain age, these reminiscences will get more and more treasured and valued as an integral part of life.

The death of Celidibache, Wand, Giulini, Georg Tinter and Asahina has signalled the end of a golden era of Bruckner interpreters, IMHO. The remaining old guards are truly quite elderly: Haitink, Kurt Sanderling, Kurt Masur, and even Blomstedt and Sawallisch. How about Harnoncourt? Maazel? Well.... But surely I should not forget to include Michael Gielen in the list of old guards. Wish them all well.

Guiseppe Sinopoli is the one I missed most. I remembered very well his Brahms 4th with Staatskapelle Dresden and the brief talk to him after the performance. I never had the privilege to listen to his live Bruckner performances, and now it is all water under the bridge. He is one of those unsung heroes in Bruckner's discography.

For the past few days, I've been listening to the Tower Records Victor Heritage Collection of Asahina's old Bruckner recordings (NCS 631-634). These are CD re-issues of his recordings in the early 1980s which have hitherto only appeared in the LP format. Interesting recordings. My impressions later.

12 July 2009

After almost 2 years and when this blog is on the verge of oblivion, I can post something new at last.

I've caught up with the new Bruckner recordings, and am really surprised to look back on such a sparse output in the past couple of years.

Herbert Blomstedt has emerged as the new Brucknerian, thanks to his recordings on Querstand. I'm really impressed by his CDs. He has grown from his Denon years in 1980-1981, through his Decca years in the 1990's, to a new height lately with his performance with the Gewandhaus Orchestra.