Naxos has, through
these two discs, delivered a wonderful
idea which should put Bruckner nuts
forever in their debt. They have collected
together all of the versions of Bruckner’s
mighty third symphony except the 1870
one (which they have already released
in the Georg Tintner series of Bruckner
recordings, recorded with the Royal
Scottish National Orchestra in cracking
form). Thus, for the price of one premium
disc, the collector can have almost
the whole performing history of this
symphony on three budget priced discs.
This statement of course ignores the
‘tinkerings’ carried out by various
so called improvers to Bruckner’s works.
The recording quality
of the current discs is superb, delivering
a good concert hall perspective, with
the listener set far enough back in
the hall for the warm acoustic to be
clearly appreciated. In the New Philharmonic
Orchestra of Westphalia we have one
of those excellent regional German orchestras,
this one having been established by
combining two smaller orchestras in
1996. It has an extensive concert programme
in the upper Ruhr region as well as
being the pit orchestra at the Gelsenkirchen
Opera Company. The conductor, Johannes
Wildner has been their Generalmusikdirector
since the orchestra’s formation. In
that time he has accompanied them to
the Far East and has conducted them
in a number of recordings.
The orchestra has a
superb brass section, ripe in the good
German manner, which is ideal for Bruckner.
This is balanced by a sweet string section
which although not up to Vienna or Berlin
standards is more than enjoyable. The
woodwinds are forward and very effective.,
I enjoyed these discs immensely.
There is a freshness
about the playing, which I find very
attractive, and this may be the result
of the orchestra finding Bruckner’s
sound-world for the first time.
Bruckner’s Third Symphony
has had a very chequered history since
its initial completion. The composer
was artistically smitten by Wagner and
the work was dedicated to Wagner. The
older composer spent a long while holding
on to the score, without acknowledgement
to the composer. Eventually, without
a response from Wagner, the composer
tried to mount a performance of the
work in Vienna in 1877 after the earlier
choice of conductor, Herbeck, died.
Bruckner took the podium and was horrified
to see that members of the audience
left during the performance leaving
only a few at the symphony’s end. The
critics also savaged the work, Hanslick
having written "We must humbly
confess that we did not understand this
gigantic symphony. Neither his poetic
intention – perhaps a vision of Beethoven’s
Ninth made friends with Wagner’s Walküre
and wound up trampled under the hooves
of their horses – nor was the purely
musical structure clear to us."
I suppose modern "classical music"
has to put up with the same lack of
However, we have here
superb performances of different versions
of the Third, which I am sure many will
enjoy immensely provided they can get
past having more than one available
at one time. For this Bruckner lover
this is no problem whatsoever.
Well done Naxos, give
us more like this!