17 November 2013

A very happy ending to a courtship in sound and wisdom in Janowski's Bruckner cycle

Marek Janowski's Bruckner symphony cycle took a little more than 5 years to complete. These days when the vast majority of Bruckner recordings are live, this cycle in a sense comes as a surprise as all the recordings are not indicated as live.

The cycle began with B9 recorded and issued in 2007 and finished with B4 recorded in October 2012 and issued just recently. The following list shows the chronological order in which the recordings are released. All are recorded in Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland. All are issued in hybrid SACD/CDs.

Symphony         Recorded in          Released in        Version/Edition
B9                      5/2007                   2007                    Nowak
B6                      1/2009                   2009                    Nowak
B5                      7/2009                   2010                    Nowak
B8                      4,6,7/2010             2010                    1890 Nowak
B7                      10/2010                 6/2011                 Nowak
B1                      6/2011                   4/2012                 Linz 1866 Nowak
B3                      10/2011                 9/2012                 1889 Nowak
B2                      10/2012                 6/2013                 1877 Carragan
B4                      10/2012                 11/2013               1878/1880 Nowak

If I have to use just a few words to describe this cycle, they are 'air', 'space' and 'contrast between mellowness and urgency'. The first two words refer to the recorded sound and the last phrase to Janowski's treatment of the symphonies. The sound is very pleasing in all the recordings, with air and space around each section of the orchestra, and with lovely warmth both of the orchestral sonority and in the hall ambience. Janowski imparts excellent limpidity and mellowness to the nine symphonies and the result is mesmerizing. However, as with all recorded cycles except perhaps Blomstedt's, there are bound to be some weak links. Less successful are B9 and B7, and I'd say it demands an acquired taste in B5 as well. Exceptional ones are B8 (recorded in 3 different months), B1, B2 and B3. The last one published, B4, provides a very happy ending to this cyclic endeavour.

On the SACD/CD the copyright date is 2013 (correct)

On the back cover, the copyright date is wrongly stated as 2010 which is earlier than the recording was made!

All in all, it is a lovely cycle that merits repeated listening, which I've been doing for quite some time.