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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor [57:36]
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra/Ivor Bolton
rec. 25-27 October 2007, Festpielhaus, Salzburg
Experience Classicsonline

The English conductor Ivor Bolton has been working with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra for several years now, and the fruits of their relationship can be experienced in this well-judged performance of Bruckner’s Third Symphony. In whichever version (1873, 1877 or 1889) this is a marvellous symphony. In this reviewer’s opinion this was the first to proclaim the full range and power of the composer’s genius. Bolton chooses the 1889 revision with its truncated finale. Some Brucknerians will feel that this is a poor substitute for the earlier versions, but I am of the opinion that it works well enough on its own terms, though on balance I prefer ‘1877’. Many distinguished conductors have followed the 1889 path, including for example Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (Arte Nova 74321 65412-2), Kurt Masur (RCA Red Seal 82876 60395-2) and Günther Wand (RCA Victor 09026 639332 - see review).

What of this Salzburg performance, recorded live across two concerts in October 2007? Bolton shapes the music securely, with a strong sense of momentum, while achieving moments of mystery also. The slow movement is eloquent of line, but here and in other lyrical passages, such as the first movement’s gesangperiode, there is a lack of bloom and warmth in the string sound, particularly from the violins. At the powerful climax of the first movement, however, the string sound does have an appropriate weight, and the effect is both exciting and symphonically satisfying. While Bolton and his Salzburg orchestra do not replace the existing recommendations listed above, or others using the 1873 and 1877 editions, their performance is a worthy addition to the catalogue.

The third movement scherzo points its rhythms to good effect, aided by both the tight and disciplined orchestral playing, the clarity of the recorded sound and - it does no harm to say so - the good behaviour of the Salzburg audience. The trio is also a delight, capturing Bruckner’s Upper Austrian rustic style to perfection.

The finale comes off well - if one is prepared to believe that the 1889 version ever does - though again the lyrical string music misses the mark. Bruckner’s conjunct of polka and chorale - ‘in the tavern there is dancing, while next door the master lies in his coffin’ - is well shaped and phrased, and makes its special point. Overall there is a compelling sweep to Bolton’s interpretation, replete with an atmospheric and detailed recording. And the ending could hardly be more final, more unequivocal, just as Bruckner surely intended.

Terry Barfoot 

Reviews of Bruckner 3 on Musicweb



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