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
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.