On May 9th 1868, Anton Bruckner took up
the baton, and conducted the premiere performance of his Symphony No.
1 in C Minor. Actually it was his second symphony, not his third as
has been wrongly stated in the past. The chronology of these first three
symphonies is as follows: strictly according to their composition dates:
Symphony in F Minor, later called by Bruckner the Symphony No. "00"
was composed in 1863. At the age of 39, to mark the end of his "Free"
composition studies with Otto Kitzler, came the Symphony No. 1 in C
Minor of 1866. After this came the Symphony in D, of 1864, subsequently
called the Symphony No. "0" in 1895. This re-classification
of these symphonies largely came about due to scholarly research by
Professor Carragan amongst others.
A few months later, following a move to Vienna, Bruckner
"Revised" the 1st Symphony by thickening up of
some inner textures with added woodwind and brass. He then called it
the "Vienna" edition. This revision was carried out during
Even at this early stage of Bruckner’s compositional
career, the strong influence of the works of Richard Wagner can be clearly
heard, mainly as a result of the "Opera" Tannhauser.
Bruckner had in fact attended a performance of Tannhauser in
1863, conducted by his young teacher Otto Kitzler, in 1865, he travelled
to Munich to attend a performance of Tristan und Isolde. The
music of Wagner was to have a life-long influence on Bruckner’s works,
and Bruckner’s veneration for Wagner became wholly obsessive during
his middle compositional years.
What we have on this CD, is a fine performance and
recording of the 1865/66 "Linz" edition of the 1st
symphony given by one of the world’s oldest and most refined orchestras.
The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra are directed by Vaclav Neumann, who,
sadly, died on September 2nd 1995, shortly after his 75th
birthday. For a conductor, 75 is positively middle-aged. The tempi are
finely crafted and played with a great affection for Bruckner’s symphonies.
There is an overall feeling that the largish scale symphonic sound-world
of this work owes more to very late Schubert than to the massive sound-world
of Wagner. Having said that, this, epic structure is immensely easy
to listen to, and for the first time listener, will not present any
problematic moments. All in all, this issue can be greeted with a fine
recommendation, and at what is a silly budget price deserves to be within
every Brucknerian’s CD collection.
It is also worth mentioning that the Royal Scottish
National Orchestra conducted by the late great Georg Tintner have recorded
on the Naxos label the "Unrevised Linz Version ed. Haas/Carragan"
of 1866. The label claims this to be the "World Premier Recording".
Both CDs should be purchased without delay, as they are both important
documents of Bruckner’s early compositional skills.