Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1889 version)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
rec. Stockholms Konserthus, 15-18 September 2010
EXTON EXCL-00073 SACD [55:36]
In whichever version (1873, 1877 or 1889) Bruckner’s Third is a marvellous symphony, which proclaims the full range and power of his genius. Sakari Oramo opts for the third version, made during the composer’s period of ‘revisions mania’ following the conductor Hermann Levi’s rejection of the first version of the Eighth Symphony in 1887. The Third had essentially been composed some fifteen years before, and in 1889 as previously in 1877 the revisions led to a shortening of the score, and in particular of the finale. The symphony was dedicated to Wagner, whom Bruckner called ‘the Master’, and various Wagner quotations were also excised from the revisions.
Traversing the finale’s structure is therefore a particular challenge, and it is one that this performance only succeeds in making up to a point. The choices of tempi are well articulated and appropriate enough, so too the longer-term vision. Oramo brings to the music as sensitive a mastery of orchestral shadings and dynamics as you could wish to hear. The problem is that he seems to miss the point when it comes to that particularly important section when Bruckner combines polka and chorale: ‘in the tavern there is dancing while next door the master lies in his coffin’. Too little is made of this, and it seems a missed opportunity. Try comparing, for example with the recent recording by Sylvain Cambreling and the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, also in the 1889 version: Glor Classics GC10391

The Exton recording for Oramo allows for details to emerge within a sympathetic acoustic - hence the awareness of so many subtleties of dynamic shading which are a feature of this performance. In Bruckner’s symphonies capturing the right sound counts for so much, rather more so than might be the case with the music of other orchestral composers. Phrases need to have the chance to breathe, and the string sound needs to expand resonantly. These things contribute significantly to the experience offered to the listener in recorded performances, and this Exton issue scores well on these counts, releasing powerful climaxes as and when they occur, in moments such as the first movement’s release of the recapitulation.
The playing of the Stockholm orchestra is very fine, and Oramo is a major conductor. In addition to being Principal of the Stockhom Philharmonic, he will in 2013 become Principal of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In Bruckner’s Third he has full control of his forces and a commanding view of the score. However, this recording enters what has become a crowded market-place, and while it has abundant strengths the vision of the finale doesn’t quite come off.
Terry Barfoot 

In Bruckner’s Third Oramo has full control of his forces and a commanding view of the score. 

Masterwork Index: Bruckner 3

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