Anton BRUCKNER (1824 - 1895)
Symphony No.4 in E, Romantic (1874 - 1878/1880)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Herbert Blomstedt
rec. no details given. DDD
This is a solid, no-nonsense performance of Bruckner’s great Symphony. Indeed, so straightforward is this account that it’s almost bland. But I don’t mean to make disparaging remarks for, despite what I have just written there is something special about this performance.
The title Romantic must, over the years, have misled some into thinking that this was going to be some kind of orchestral orgy of sound - think of Howard Hanson’s similarly titled 2ndSymphony, which is brilliantly extrovert and overtly emotional, but I love it; that’s not what Bruckner is about. Whilst Hanson might be sex in music, Bruckner is always bread and water with hope and the deepest passion. Think sackcloth with Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choos.
What is impressive about this performance is that Blomstedt allows the music time to breathe and gradually unfold. There’s a distinct lack of rubato, no necessity to get to the end until Bruckner has been allowed to say all that he has to. The only sense of urgency is Bruckner’s urgency, not Blomstedt’s. Blomstedt is happy to let Bruckner have his say, and he never gets in the way. This is fairly typical for Blomstedt. He seems to be the catalyst through which the music flows directly to his listening public. I am not unhappy about this for, over the years, there have been far too many performances of Bruckner’s Symphonies where conductors put too much of their “vision” into the music and thus we hear Bruckner’s monolithic climaxes through somebody’s glasses rather than for ourselves. Here we can fully appreciate the mountain peaks for ourselves.
It’s quite a revelation! There is another reason why this recording succeeds, and that is the recording itself, which allows for some distance between the listener and the orchestra. The players are some way from the microphones, and although there isn’t a great deal of reverberation, one does have the feeling of a large hall where the music can grow and really bloom. Thus the climaxes are full and rich but never overpowering in purely sonic terms. Because of this distance you’ll have to turn up the volume to get the full effect of the music but when you do, it’s magnificent.
I would not wish to be without Rafael Kubelik’s 1979 account of the work with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Sony CD SICC262) or Bruno Walter’s version with the Columbia Symphony (Sony 5153022 - a 2 CD set, coupled with his equally fine performance of Bruckner’s 9thSymphony), but Blomstedt’s approach is a perfect foil for these other two interpretations. If it doesn’t quite ascend the heights, it gets very close, and it is a most satisfactory performance and one which would grace any record shelf.
Bob Briggs  

Would grace any record shelf. 

see also reviews by Terry Barfoot and Stephen Vasta