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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No.4 in E flat major, WAB104 Romantic (1874, rev 1878-80, 1886) [59:10] ¹
Symphony No.9 in D, WAB109 [Orel edition amended Bruno Walter] (1891-96) [50:50] ²
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No.35 in D, K385 Haffner (1782) [16:50] ³
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Bruno Walter¹
Philadelphia Orchestra/ Bruno Walter²
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/ Bruno Walter³
rec. 10 February 1940, Studio 8-H, live broadcast (No.4): 6 February 1944, Carnegie Hall, live broadcast (Mozart) and 28 February 1948, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, live broadcast (No.9)
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1262 [59:10 + 68:20]

Experience Classicsonline




 
This largely all-Bruckner 2-CD release conjoins two live performances given in the 1940s by Bruno Walter. The Fourth Symphony, which was released on Pearl a good long while ago, was taped in Studio 9-H and derives from an NBC Symphony broadcast given on 10 February 1940. The previous season the orchestra had played the symphony under Toscanini's assistant, William Steinberg, so they were not wholly unfamiliar with it, although it was hardly a repertoire piece and Toscanini was not attracted by the composer's music. As Mark W. Kluge's notes suggest, the studio acoustic wasn't as constricted or as unkind to Bruckner's monumental architecture as one might have supposed or feared, or maybe Aaron Z. Snyder's 2012 restorations helped in that respect, though I've not had access to the Pearl to make comparison.
 
The climaxes certainly expand sufficiently to allow a good body of weight to sound and the sweetly dolce string phrasing at 9:32 in the opening movement is not limited in any way by the acoustic; nor does it turn acidic. At this period in his life Walter could be, and often was, especially exciting. His almost contemporaneous performances at the Met saw performances that were invariably exciting albeit sometimes erratic (notably his Mozart operas). This Bruckner performance enshrines the drive without any associated faults, either of phrasal over-emphasis or indulged rubati. His later 1960 performance, where he used the Robert Haas edition - in New York he used the Loewe/Gutmann - is considerably slower, around 8 minutes or so in fact, so if you want an example of Walter at his most involved in this symphony, notwithstanding the more primitive sonics, it's to this performance that you should turn.
 
The Ninth Symphony was recorded in a live broadcast from the Academy of Music in Philadelphia in February 1948. The score is the Orel but amended by Walter in some places. Ormandy's orchestra plays with typical warmth for its guest. Tonally it's richer and more rounded than the NBC's more acerbic corporate tone: the richer brass tone is also more rounded than its NY counterparts. As regards the later Columbia Symphony stereo recording, the same question applies as to the Fourth. This Philadelphia performance is a good 8 minutes faster as well. The performance is alive with drama and some almost startling changes of tempo - much more extreme in this performance than in the case of the Fourth where he's much more structurally sound. Nevertheless it's a driving, and also exciting performance and it sounds excellent in this transfer. Whether you'll prefer it to the Columbia Symphony recording of 1958 will depend on your attitude to the Philadelphia's corporate tonal qualities and as to whether you prefer this leaner and more dramatic performance or not.
 
The filler is the 1944 Carnegie Hall Haffner Symphony, a beefy, bass-up, and rather clod- bound - though not inexpressive - performance. It will hardly impinge on the Bruckner when it comes to selection but it does add a worthwhile performance.
 
Jonathan Woolf
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