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OF THE MONTH
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OF THE MONTH
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 6 in A (1879-81) [57:01]
((i) Majestoso [15:56]; (ii) Adagio. Sehr feierlich [17:19];
(iii) Scherzo – Trio [8:36]; (iv) Finale [15:06])
rec. live, Semperoper, Dresden, Germany, 2 November 2003.
is the 14th volume of the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden.
It’s a mid-price release of a live performance made during
the middle of Bernard Haitink’s three year tenure as principal
conductor. He made his name as a Brucknerian with the Amsterdam
Concertgebouw, recording a complete series in the studio
with them for Philips in the 1960s and 1970s and then re-recording
Nos. 7-9. As can be seen from a search of this useful Bruckner
discography, he then recorded Nos. 3-5 and 8 in the studio
with Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra between 1985 and 1995.
He has also made various other, mostly live, Bruckner recordings,
none of which I have heard.
Unlike Karajan, whose Bruckner interpretations stood still
over decades, Haitink’s seemed to move on, generally becoming slower and more expressive.
This conductor also has a reputation of being better heard live – particularly
in Mahler – and so it was with such pre-conceptions that I approached
this disc. I have re-listened to Haitink’s Amsterdam recording from 1970
by way of comparison. This is currently available in the complete set
and also on a Philips Duo coupled with the seventh symphony (see review).
When John Quinn and I collaborated on a review of
all the Bruckner symphony recordings we had heard in 2005, Haitink’s
Amsterdam Sixth was pretty much at the top of the pile for a work that
has proved rather elusive on disc.
preconceptions mentioned above are only partially borne out
by listening to this disc. Haitink’s tempi are slightly broader,
except in the Adagio which is identically paced. Overall,
his conception of this work hasn’t changed a great deal.
For a one-off live performance the playing of the Staatskapelle
Dresden is quite exceptional. Haitink’s virtues as a Brucknerian
are evident – architectural strength, seamless transitions
and faultless balances between the sections of the orchestra.
Phrasing is now slightly more expressive but there is never
any sense of the music being pulled around. Haitink makes
rather more of some markings in the score – for example the molto
ritard. in the last three bars of the first movement.
recorded sound is very decent and hardly betrays its live
origins. Applause is retained but there is at least a three
second gap following the last chord before it begins. Can
someone please teach British audiences how to silently count
to three before applauding? The documentation is excellent
and it is hard to find fault with anything. To my mind, this
is clearly superior to Haitink’s 1970 version both as a reading
and in terms of sound quality.
for a mid-price Bruckner 6 in modern sound? Look no further.
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