This performance of Bruckner’s mighty Seventh
originates from the SWR archives. Hänssler claim this is
the first time it has been available (presumably they mean on
CD, as they give the original Telefunken 78 numbers, SK3000/7
on the inside front cover!), and so this is clearly a valuable
Eugen Jochum’s Bruckner interpretations have
caused some controversy, frequently being contrasted with Furtwängler’s
more architectural approach. A stop-start account can fall flat
on its face, but luckily there are enough redeeming qualities
here to make this Seventh a fascinating experience. There are
famous studio accounts from Dresden and Berlin by Jochum (EMI
and DG respectively). Here Hänssler provide what is effectively
a supplement to these, an early 1939 performance with the Vienna
Philharmonic (it also complements Mravinsky’s 1967 Leningrad performance
recently reviewed on this site: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/July03/Mravinsky.htm).
The transfer is in general acceptable, the only
major stumbling block being a tendency to crowd at climaxes. In
addition, the third movement Scherzo suffers from problems of
level. The opening lower strings are all but inaudible, meaning
that if one cranks up the volume, the louder passages become at
best uncomfortable (TRACK 3).
The first movement is expansive (listen to the
initial ascending horn/cello arpeggiation, TRACK 1). It is soon
clear that there is a remarkable control of the orchestra in evidence
here - but that control is put at the service of some very impulsive
accelerandi (from 11’ onwards there is almost the impression
of skidding out of control!).
The famous Adagio is the redeeming factor in
this account (TRACK 2). There is a real warmth to the sound that
manages to crawl its way across the decades, coupled with Jochum’s
innate harmonic sensitivity. Coming complete with cymbal crash,
there is a predominant confidence that only falters again at around
the 11 minute mark. It is almost worth the price of the disc for
the lead in to the entrance of the Wagner tubas (who, alas, enter
rather unsubtly at 21’46 and mar the moment). In addition to the
problem of sound level mentioned above, the Scherzo and Trio suffers
from an overly serious slant. Jochum attempts to whip up some
excitement prior to the Trio, which he milks too much (a sign
of the times, perhaps: there are even some syrupy portamenti).
Ensemble between horns and violins is not entirely accurate, either.
The finale is brisk, but not so breezy. Although
initially it feels that there is an underlying intensity proceeding
in tandem with Jochum’s chosen pulse, in the final analysis the
cumulative energy inherent in this score fails to appear. Distortion
in the heftier moments does not help.
An interesting document, then, but definitely
not a first choice.
Documentation deserves a comment or two. The
booklet notes are not booklet-bound at all: there is a ‘free download’
Very generous of them. Assuming one has internet access and printer,
there is still the question of fitting cumbersome A4 sheets in
to one’s slip-case (also, the notes were not yet up when I received
my review copy, resulting in a delay for this review).
It really does feel as if one is handling half