This is a fine and idiomatic performance of Bruckner’s
Romantic Symphony, which has perhaps become the master’s
best-loved work. It was first recorded by Denon in 1981 and
now reappears on Dal Segno at an appealing price, making it
a competitive option for potential purchasers. That said, Dal
Segno include no recording information in their rather thin
The sound quality is excellent, however, and there is no suggestion
that the twenty-year old recording is inadequate. As ever, the
spacious first movement sets the tone and scale for the whole.
The beginning has a wonderfully atmospheric quality, an E flat
tonality which is very similar to that of the opening of Wagner's
Das Rheingold, a work that Bruckner new and loved.It
is the introductory role of the solo horn, surrounded as it
is by tremolando strings, that suggests the work's title, Romantic,
and the playing here is exemplary, at once confident, accurate
and warm-toned. The atmosphere offered by the acoustic seems
just right and recalls that of the monastery of St Florian where
Bruckner worked. Blomstedt’s spacious tempo allows the
music to expand in an appropriate way. ‘Lively, but not
too fast’, says Bruckner, allowing the majesty of the
dynamic range to make its mark. The effect is undeniably impressive.
The ensuing dialogues between woodwinds and strings in flowing
lyrical music - the latter known as the gesängperiod (song-period)
- are played poetically with beautifully judged phrasing. The
warmth of the string sound is also most pleasing, recalling
that found in the recordings of Gunter Wand, including that
master’s last recording of all, made with the North German
Radio Symphony Orchestra for RCA (74321
93041 2). Moreover Blomstedt’s performance reaches
a most impressive conclusion at the end of the first movement,
a peroration that is at once sonically satisfying and deeply
The Andante has an eloquent cello cantilena, whose whispering
violin postlude proves the perfect foil. Blomstedt’s attention
to the details of dynamic shading reap just rewards. Perhaps
the restrained, meditative chorale, and the beautiful viola
melody related to it, might have found just a little more poetry,
but the tempo matches Bruckner’s Andante marking.
The magnificent, epic climax towards the close is deeply satisfying.
The Symphony No. 4 was composed in 1874, but in 1878 and 1880
Bruckner revised it, replacing the original scherzo and completely
reworking the finale. The work thus created received a successful
premiere under Hans Richter in Vienna, on 20 February 1881.
The chief reason for its initial success was the new scherzo
movement, one of the most directly appealing examples of Bruckner's
art. Blomstedt and the Dresden orchestra respond to the atmospheric
orchestration and the thrilling horn fanfares, with their hunting
allusions. The music builds to a powerful and exciting climax,
which is balanced by a lyrical trio of magical calm.
The finale resumes the more purposeful agenda of the first movement,
and is built on the large scale. Out of the restrained opening
a huge and massive climax is generated, while once again there
is the lyrical music of a gesängperiod to provide the balance
of contrast. And the final phase, replete with full orchestral
sonority, sounds suitably impressive.
Blomstedt recorded the symphony again with the San Francisco
Symphony Orchestra in 2006, but a quarter of a century on, it
surely proved hard to better this Dresden version as either
recording or interpretation.
see also review by Stephen