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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 (1884)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Prelude: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1865)*
BBC Symphony Orchestra
English National Opera Orchestra*
Sir Reginald Goodall
Rec 3 November 1971, Royal Festival Hall, London (Bruckner), 27 October 1974, The Maltings Snape (Wagner)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4147-2 [79.42]

Sir Reginald Goodall developed a considerable reputation as a Wagner conductor in the later part of his career, and his performances and recordings marked him as a true specialist in this field. Therefore it is good to have this new issue from the BBC archives; another valuable addition to the catalogue from this rich source.

Goodall was also a committed Brucknerian, and his glowing account of the great Seventh Symphony has both long-term vision and short-term attention to detail. The recorded sound from the live Royal Festival Hall performance is good enough to show off the latter, although it does not compare with the more sophisticated and rich-toned offerings from more recent recordings (the reissue of Daniel Barenboim’s Berlin recordings, for example).

The balancing of the strongly characterized ingredients in Bruckner’s first movements is most pleasingly articulated by Goodall. The strings of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the cellos in particular, give the marvellous opening theme that warmth of expression that is its special quality. But there is also room for a more dramatically rhythmic approach later on, so that the music builds with strongly articulated symphonic momentum.

The gravity of the slow movement, articulated at a true Adagio, suits Goodall’s manner well. If there is a criticism it is that the climactic passages do not glow with incandescent tone as much as they might. A mixture of factors, including the hall acoustic of this live performance, may have contributed here. However, the effect is never less than pleasing. The edition is that of Leopold Nowak, so the famous cymbal clash is included at the peak of the greatest climax.

The later movements are very much in line with the central concept established thus far: a strongly rhythmic scherzo with the first trumpet on fine form, and a well-paced finale which leads to a suitably final return of the principal theme.

The performance of the Mastersingers Overture succeeds rather less well. The basic tempo is slow, but there is a certain rhythmic slackness and a consequent lack of flow; an important consideration in this piece. There are some highly effective moments, to be sure, including the peal of C major brass at the climax, but overall this live performance from Snape Maltings does not satisfy as the Bruckner Seventh does.

Terry Barfoot

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