Back in 2007 I reviewed an Andromeda
boxed set of Knappertsbusch’s Bruckner symphonies. Additional
music included Wagner and Liszt items, to ensure that the six
CDs were well filled. But Music & Arts had long before released
these Bruckner symphonies in various editions over a number
of years. For the record No.3 was first released on CD-257 in
1987, No.4 on CD-249 (1987), No.7 on CD-209 in 1986 and, in
boxed form, Nos. 4 to 9 on CD-1028 in 1988, though this included
a different performance of No.3 to the one originally issued
on CD-257. I appreciate that this is all rather numerically
and temporally confusing, but I regret it’s going to get
This new digitally remastered box, with work by Aaron Z. Snyder
in 2011, represents a retrenchment of Music & Arts’s
position. It also restores the original No.3, which is to say
the Bavarian live performance of 11 October 1954. Other than
that all the performances are the same ones that were represented
in M & A’s first box back in 1998 and that Andromeda
(largely) released a decade or so later.
I should also add that Mark Kluge’s notes, a 2011 revision
of the 2008 original, go into full detail as to the exact editions
performed. This is something that was equally true of this company’s
Furtwängler Bruckner box.
What follows now is a slight revision of my Andromeda review;
given that the performances are almost all the same, it can
hardly be otherwise. I’ve tried to keep things as brief
and unBrucknerian as I can.
No.3; other performances include the same year’s commercial
Decca with the Vienna Philharmonic, a 1960 version with the
same orchestra, and there’s an NDR from 1962, once on
Discocorp. The Munich performance is rough hewn and rustic.
Ensemble precision, as you would expect, is not of the highest
and Kna’s rallentandi sometimes catch out the orchestra.
No.4 is the Berlin Philharmonic performance given in Baden-Baden
during wartime. Two VPO performances have survived - the commercial
Decca (1955) and the early sixties performances on Nuova Era.
The 1944 performance - the details of the edition used are of
Brucknerian length in the booklet notes and indeed of Wittgensteinian
complexity - is again a roughly played and only approximate
performance. The horns begin very shakily and though they recover
can’t be relied upon. To compensate, however, for technical
frailties we have a powerful Andante, consoling and tragic,
and a meatily demotic scherzo. The finale is trenchant, dramatic
and overwhelmingly exciting. In fact it’s one of the most
combustible Fourths on record.
No.5 was recorded in the studio for Decca in June 1956 with
the Vienna Philharmonic. This isn’t it. It’s the
Munich performance with the city’s Philharmonic, which
dates from 1959 and was once also released Movimento Musica
- yet another interchangeable Italian privateer. Kna plays the
1896 Doblinger edition prepared by Schalk. Knappertsbusch stuck
to his guns with regard to editions and in fairness to him in
certain cases there wasn’t then much viable alternative.
The playing in Vienna was good but things were better three
years later in Munich. It may lack the Vienna sheen but it possesses
a more supple rhythmic sense, and greater accenting. The result
is a more commanding and convincing symphonic arch, with greater
depth in episodes and correspondingly greater cumulative power.
The Seventh was recorded at the Salzburg Festival in August
1949. The much less well-known 1963 WDR performance was on the
equally less well-known Seven Seas label. The Seventh was given
with the Vienna Philharmonic. This is writ on the widest canvas.
Dynamics and orchestral timbre are both subject to wide extremes.
Kna here operates on differing principles of expression to Furtwängler
and Abendroth - the latter’s Scherzo, for example, differs
immensely from Kna’s less countrified approach. Above
all Kna unfolds the great arching melodies with a passionate
intensity that is always both structurally coherent and colouristically
intense. Textual problems are not so much of a concern here
and what remains is the profound sense of an immense span of
time unfolded without hindrance of any kind.
Seven Seas have actually also issued this 1951 Berlin No.8 on
KICC2027 and Hunt likewise on CD711. The Bavarian State 1955
performance has been issued (it’s very, very fast), Memories
dug out the VPO, and MCA offered the commercial 1963 Munich
recording (it’s very, very slow). It’s as well that
we hear the Berlin performance and not the Munich because the
former is an infinitely better performed piece of work and not
subject to nearly so many orchestral mishaps. Textual matters
will be of concern to listeners but seen in the light of his
Bruckner performances generally they are surely subordinate
to the sense of massive characterisation and eloquence that
the conductor generates. Even if I think this a lesser performances
than say the Seventh and the Fifth, it still stands as a kind
of monument of Knappertsbusch’s Bruckner conducting.
As for the Ninth, Foyer has also issued this 1950 Berlin traversal
[CDS16004]. The only other Ninth previously known to me is the
February 1958 Bavarian State on Hunt CD710 - this company had
a run of Symphonies Nos.7-9. Recently though I’ve reviewed
box of Kna’s RIAS recordings. This presents both the performance
that Music & Arts includes, and adds the radio broadcast,
without audience, given two days earlier. Kna employs a full
panoply of expressive devices, huge dynamics and powerful contrasts,
to make his points. As before and in contradistinction to the
views of many of his detractors, he does not do so through the
expedient of slow tempi.
The Wagner extracts act somewhat as fillers to bring up three
of the discs to a good total timing. They are dramatic and valuable,
though in the circumstances ancillary to the Brucknerian matter
The attractiveness or otherwise of this set is entirely dependent
on how much you have elsewhere. Nothing here is new to the discography.
The performances are in the main of outstanding power and eloquence
and the remastering of fine quality.
Masterwork Index: Bruckner
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No.3 in D minor (1877) [51:10]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Götterdämmerung (1876); Siegfried’s Rhine Journey
[11:45]; Funeral March [6:45]
Symphony No.4 in E flat Romantic (1878-80) [60:33]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegfried: Act II scene 2 [17:27]
Symphony No.5 in B flat major (1876) [60:51]
Symphony No.7 in E major (1881-84) [62:50]
Symphony No.8 in C minor (1884-87, rev. 1889-90) [78:30]
Symphony No.9 in D minor, (1891-1896) [55:10]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walkure: Act I Scene 3 [19:51]
Munich, October 1954 [No.3]
Baden-Baden, September 1944 [No.4]
March 1959 [No.5]
Salzburg, August 1949 [No.7]
Berlin, January 1951 [No.8]
Berlin, January 1950 [No.9]
November 1959 [Götterdämmerung]
Bernd Aldenhoff (tenor) - Siegfried: Otto von Rohr (bass) -
Fafner/Bavarian State Opera Orchestra, recorded 1952, live [Siegfried]
Bernd Aldenhoff (tenor) - Siegmund, Maud Cunitz (soprano) -
Sieglinde/Bavarian State Opera Orchestra, recorded 1952, live