> Anton Bruckner - Symphony No.7 [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim
Recorded 1980, Chicago
DG ELOQUENCE 469 761-2 [66.36]


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Daniel Barenboim's Bruckner recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were made more than twenty years ago, but they still sound magnificent. Both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Deutsche Grammophon engineers acquit themselves with distinction in this performance of the Seventh Symphony, which wears its age very comfortably indeed.

There is no question that Barenboim is a Bruckner conductor of distinction, whose performances are always worth hearing and, by that token, adding to a collection of recordings. If in the last analysis I do not feel that his performance of the Seventh is a 'front runner', it will still give enormous pleasure and will still serve Bruckner's cause very well.

The first movement sets the tone, the gloriously lyrical opening theme unfolding at a fairly swift Allegro moderato. This does bring the benefit of some really exciting cut and thrust of development when the more powerfully aggressive rhythmic music takes over as the movement proceeds. On the other hand, the glowing nature of the principal theme can be more incandescently represented in the final phase.

The slow movement presents similar issues. The architecture is strongly handled, the orchestral playing marvellously sonorous. But it would have sounded more marvellous still, I think, had the pulse been just a shade slower, and the phrasing allowed to breathe in fuller nobility. A dramatic reading, therefore, rather than a spiritual one.

In the light of this it is no surprise that the scherzo is particularly exciting. Rarely can the thrusting rhythms of this movement have been projected to better effect, and the orchestra is seemingly led by the first trumpet, at the top of his form.

The finale is very lively and purposeful, but once again the music might have been allowed more time to unfold. For this reason the final stages do not seem quite as overwhelming as they might, though the sound and the playing still provide the listener with plenty to enjoy.

For all that this is an exciting performance of a great symphony, the issue seems problematic because the production standards of DG's Eloquence series are disappointing, with no insert notes provided whatsoever. A false economy, surely.

Terry Barfoot

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