29 September 2012

A no-frills comeback of an old guard

Otto Klemperer, considered an old guard in Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner in the last century, appeared to be left out in the recent onslaught of budget reissues. His partial cycle of Bruckner symphonies, from No. 4 to No.9, recorded with the Philharmonia and later New Philharmonia Orchestra was greeted with acclaim in the British press ever since its first members appeared in the early 1960s. In recent years it was difficult to obtain these CDs as many were out of print. Some of them were reissued in Japan, branded as using fancy techniques or material, e.g. HQCD, SHM-CD, and charged a high price. 

He died in 1973 and so next year will be 40 years since his death. It appears that EMI has planned for some "anniversary" reissues. Here comes a no-frills box-set of these 6 Bruckner symphonies in October (EMI 4042962). It will be a good opportunity for those young enough not to be familiar with his art and recordings to get to know him. It will be a rewarding journey I'm sure.

He has had more than his fair share of the vicissitudes of life and health, and the very fact that he could still conduct from the podium and make some wonderful music in his late years is a testament to his inner mental strength, to which I pay great respect.

These recordings may not be my top choices, but nevertheless they occupy a place in my heart and on my shelf that I just want to keep for a long long time. From time to time I will listen to them again, with admiration and awe.

28 September 2012

The seemingly non-depletable Günter Wand archives

When one is about to think that Günter Wand's recorded legacy has been depleted by record companies, there is always one more to come.

Profil has done a great job in plying Wand's live concerts with the Munich Philharmonic and then the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in the last few years, resulting in many memorable CDs of his concerts. Lately they turned their attention to the NDR-Sinfonieorchester and delved into the latter's archive and found something very enticing. They will issue a new 5-CD box-set of Wand's NDR live recordings (PH 12043):

All are new to Wand's discography.

CD 1
ANTON BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E flat major WAB 104, (Original version) [sic]
11-13/10/1996; Memorial concert of 100th anniversary of Bruckner's death

CD 2
ANTON BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B flat major WAB 105, (Original version of 1875-1878) [sic]
8-10/10/1995; Commemorative concert of 50th anniversary of NDR

CD 3
JOHANNES BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 C minor op. 68
MODEST MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Maurice Ravel)
same recording as the one issued in PH09029

CD 4
JOHANNES BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 D major op. 73
29-30/11 & 1/12/1992
PYOTR TCHAIKOVSKY: Concerto for piano and orchestra no. 1 in B flat minor op. 23
(Jorge Bolet, piano)
same recording as the one issued in PH09029

CD 5
JOHANNES BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 in F major op. 90,
Symphony No. 4 E minor op. 98

I have lauded Wand's NDR live recording of the Brahms symphonies on RCA in a previous post. Here comes another NDR live Brahms cycle! Added to that are 2 Bruckner symphonies as well. And it seems that this is only the first volume. There may be further volumes of Wand's live NDR recordingsc coming. Oh, I got butterflies in my stomach....

 (Updated with recording dates: 24/10/2012)

RCO LIVE -- Anthology of the RCO 2000-2010 and Mahler cycle on DVD and Blu-ray

The Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra series, the first two volumes issued by Q-Disc and the rest by RCO Live, has reached the last volume, i.e. Volume 7 for 2000-2010, to be in line with the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the RCO in 2013. Many interesting Bruckner symphony concerts are included in this series so far as listed below:

No. 2    Haitink, 9/7/1959 (Vol. 2)
No. 3    Kubelik, 28/1/1959 (Vol. 2)
             Sanderling, 8/11/1996 (Vol. 6)
No. 4    Klemperer, 4/12/1947 (Vol. 1)
No. 6    Jochum, 2/11/1980 (Vol. 5)
No. 9    Giulini, 22/1/1978 (Vol. 4)

In Volume 7, the only Bruckner is Zubin Mehta's No. 8 in 2005.

Another major release for Mahlerites is the RCO Mahler cycle on DVD and Blu-ray. All are full HD live recordings with 5.0 surround sound from the 2009-2011 Mahler celebrations from Concertgebouw.

Very nice package.

23 September 2012

Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Hong Kong Arts Festival 2013

Riccardo Muti will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to play in the 2013 Hong Kong Arts Festival on 28 and 29 January, with the same 2 sets of programme he used for his 2013 tour to the Far East. Although no Bruckner was programmed for this 2013 tour, not too long ago Muti has expressed his wish to do a Bruckner cycle with the CSO. He has done the Second in 2009 and also the Sixth at the end of the 2011-2012 season on 22 June. He is scheduled to perform the First to conclude the 2012-2013 season.

A review of his concert on 22 June appeared in the Chicago Tribune and can be read here. This concert can be heard from this streaming link till 23 October.

What is worrying for the Orchestra is that the opening concert of the new season on 22 September was cancelled due to the musicians' strike. Here is an extract from the CSO's press release:

"The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance this evening, September 22 at 8 p.m. at Symphony Center, has been canceled. The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra chose to strike rather than continue their negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The previous collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight on Sunday, September 16, 2012. Musicians and management had previously agreed to begin the 2012/13 season this week, as they continued the contract negotiations that began this summer. Rehearsals and concerts took place as scheduled earlier this week. However, during today’s meeting, the musicians left the negotiating table and proceeded to strike."

I hope that agreement can be reached in the near future.

16 September 2012

Bruckner videos of Paavo Järvi

Paavo Järvi has shown himself to be an up-and-coming Brucknerian in his commercial CDs released so far: Bruckner 7, 9 and 5, although the last one is only a local Japanese release up to the present moment. 


I've blogged about his Bruckner 7 recording in 2009, and about his concert of Bruckner 8 His concert of the latter symphony in Wiesbaden in 2012 was reported on the orchestra's official website to be used as a live recording for future release on CD. Before the wait for the CD is over, we can enjoy his Bruckner 8 in another format: a concert in Alte Oper Frankfurt on 1 October 2011 uploaded by hr-Sinfonieorchester on Youtube.


There is also a video of the first movement of Bruckner 6 for the concert in Alte Oper Frankfurt on 21 May 2010. Very generous offers from the orchestra indeed.  



09 September 2012

The Bruckner cycle par excellence is about to arrive

In July 2011, I blogged the Ad Hoc Blomstedt Bruckner cycle par excellence, and now the full cycle (from Symphony No. 1 to No. 9) is about to be available by the end of this month. There will be a box-set of these 9 symphonies. What is particularly pleasing is that all the unissued symphonies will also be available separately, which means those of us who have bought these symphonies one by one over the years will not be forced to buy the whole box-set just for the remaining symphonies (Nos. 2 and 9 in this case), unlike the recent Marcus Bosch cycle which compels you to buy the whole box-set if you want his F minor and Nullte recordings.

The following picture shows Blomstedt's Gewandhausorchester Leipzig cycle up to the present moment. There are two Thirds, with the earlier one issued within a 5-CD box-set of his live recordings in 1998-2005, and the newer one just issued earlier this year. The Ninth is his last Bruckner recording issued by Decca, recorded in 1995, a very fine one indeed.

The whole Querstand cycle is in SACD format, making it easily one of the best, if not the best, sounding Bruckner cycles up to the present day. Apart from the sound, from the artistic point of view, this cycle is also easily the most satisfying as far as complete cycles are concerned. It is well known that among the previously issued cycles, there are always some weak links in the chain, but up to the present state of completion of Blomstedt's cycle, I cannot find one that is not excellent. That doesn't mean that all of them are automatic top choices for each symphony, as personal top choices are very often the result of the interplay amidst personal listening experience, preference, ethos, associated events and state of mind. However, among Bruckner cycles or box-sets for that matter, this may be the one that you don't have to look any further. Honestly I'm holding my breath for the last 2 symphonies issued in this cycle for the next 3 weeks.

07 September 2012

The enviable Bruckner 9 concert at BBC Proms 2012

The partnership of Bernard Haitink, one of the great Brucknerians, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra which Bruckner described as "the most superior" orchestra, is a potent attraction to lovers of Bruckner's music. This superb Brucknerian partnership worked wonders last night at BBC Proms 2012.

Thanks to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast, I can enjoy the opportunity to listen to this concert miles away from London. So I spent my lunch time today listening to this concert broadcast. What a mesmerising performance! Haitink, shunning histrionics and narcissism, just lets the music speak for itself. The flow is so natural. I'm fully enthralled by Haitink's soft-spoken beauty in the third theme of the opening movement and the coda in the great Adagio.  When the audience had waited for 10 seconds to begin its applause after the last note died away, what else can you ask for from a captivating concert?

Those who expect their Bruckner 9 to be full of excitement or up-front passion, however, should better stay away from this performance to avoid disappointment.

Only 7 days are left for online listening to this concert at BBC Radio 3.

04 September 2012

Following the trail of Anton Bruckner in Austria (2) -- Ansfelden 1824-35

One hundred eighty-eight years ago today, at 4:30 in the morning, the great composer Anton Bruckner, the first child of Anton Bruckner Sr. and Theresia, née Helm, was born in Ansfelden, Upper Austria. To commemorate this happy anniversary, I am most pleased to post some pictures taken two weeks and a half ago in Ansfelden.

On the highway from Salzburg to Linz

The church next to Bruckner's birth house in Ansfelden as seen from a distance

The building next to the old school house is under renovation

The old school house where Bruckner was born. Note there are 2 plaques on the facade. This building is under renovation and will be reopened in 2013.

A closer look

A close-up of the lower plaque

A close-up of the upper plaque. The plaque was unveilled in May 1895 during a large festive party organised by the Linz choral society 'Frohsinn' as part of its 50th anniversary celebration activities.

Its honorary member
The famous composer Anton Bruckner,
Knight of the Order of Franz Joseph,
Imperial and Royal Court Organist, Lecturer at the Imperial University of Vienna
Honorary Citizen of the City of Linz,
Was born in this house on 4 September, 1824,
Was dedicated this plaque
 by the Liedertafel 'Frohsinn' in Linz
May 1895

Bruckner's association with the Liedertafel Frohsinn in Linz was not insignificant. He joined the Liedertafel Frohsinn in 1856 as a full member, and was assigned to the second tenor. That same year, he was elected to be second archivist, and in this position he could get an insight into the diverse existing musical material. He became its choirmaster from 1860-1861 and again in 1868. He only left the position when he moved to Vienna to take up his new jobs there in autumn 1868. He was made its honorary member after he left. In Bruckner's burial in St. Florian on 15 October 1896, all the members of the Liedertafel Frohsinn choir sang Mendelssohn's Wie selig sind die Toten.

The modern board of opening hours

The other side of the school house

A close-up of the window panel

Walking up a staircase in front of the old school house will reach the church

Unfortunately the door to the church was locked

The Anton Bruckner Centrum (ABC) is a building with exhibition space for the history of Ansfelden and also the life of Anton Bruckner in Ansfelden. It can be reached by walking down a staircase next to the church. Outside the building a monument of Bruckner can be seen. It was unveilled on 18 May 1924 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bruckner. The bust of the monument was produced by the Linz sculptor Plany.

The monument outside ABC

A large stature of Bruckner conducting inside the building next to the entrance

The Bruckner exhibits in ABC

The signage

The Anton Bruckner Symphony Trail (Anton Bruckner Sinfoniewanderweg) leads from Ansfelden through fields and hilly forest landscape to St. Florian, with ten stations along its way. Display boards are placed in each station with descriptions of the ten symphonies of Bruckner and the historical background of the time of the composition of each symphony. Mp3 players with excerpts of each symphony can be borrowed from the ABC for use along the trail. The trail is approximately 9.2km long and it takes about 2 hours of walking to go from one end to the other.

The large Sinfoniewanderweg information board outside ABC

The young Anton Bruckner lived in Ansfelden till the age of 11 when he was sent to live and learn with his godfather Johann Baptist Weiss in Hörsching.