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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 in E major
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Eliahu Inbal
Rec September 1985, Alte Oper, Frankfurt
APEX 09274 08172 (63.44) Superbudget


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Eliahu Inbal is a notable Brucknerian, and his contribution in the field of bringing the earlier editions of some of the symphonies to wider public awareness is a major feat. With his excellent Frankfurt orchestra he has given many live and recorded performances of Bruckner and Mahler in particular, and it is right that these should enjoy a 'second coming' in the form of reissues like this one.

Of course the Seventh Symphony has little of the controversy surrounding which edition should be played. It is a remarkable reflection of the nature of Bruckner's symphonic thinking that an issue can be made out of whether or not there should be a cymbal clash at the climax of the slow movement. (And one which, if used, represents the player's only contribution to proceedings which last in excess of an hour.) But such is the Bruckner experience that the inexorable structural and tonal control builds to its moment of fulfilment and release, and a judgement has to be made by the conductor about including or omitting the cymbal clash. There is no simple answer, right or wrong: among recent recordings, for example, Simon Rattle (EMI) includes it, Georg Tintner (Naxos) does not. For the record, neither does Inbal.

The Seventh gave Bruckner the greatest triumph of his career as a composer of his symphonies. And rightly so, in the sense that the wonderful arching opening theme immediately reveals the work of a master. Inbal sets a carefully articulated course in the first movement, allowing the ebb and flow of the development to grow naturally and very effectively. His tempi tend to be quicker than slower, his inclination is always to keep the music moving rather than to indulge in its qualities of sound. At some points, particularly in the finale - which is always the hardest movement to bring off - this can make the music sound a little prosaic.

Getting the right sound is a priority in a recording of a Bruckner symphony. This recording dates from the mid-1980s and was made by Teldec. It is clear and truthful, quite ambient but the level is too low to make a really impressive effect without the aid of extra effort from the listener's amplifier. It's astonishing how much difference this can make, though even then some of the mighty brass chorales don't open out as much as they might.

The great slow movement is given appropriate dignity, with well chosen tempi and phrasing which allow the music to unfold and make its solemn impression. The violins do not quite have the warmth of tone that this music really needs, or the recording has denied it to them. The result is not absolutely damaging but this symphony has been much recorded and this is a competitive field.

Someone at Warner ought to have another look at the design of the booklets for this series. Why have such tight-packed small print on glossy paper, with the bottom portion of the page left blank, and the whole of the back page of the four pages left entirely blank? It makes no sense.

While not a first recommendation, this disc makes an interesting addition to the catalogue, for here is a performance of a great symphony by a conductor who knows and loves the music.


Terry Barfoot


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