This isn't a particularly good performance, though it's not for lack
of trying. Simone Young doesn't get all of Bruckner wrong: she draws
an epic quality from the first movement exposition, and launches the
with driving vigour. She just doesn't get nearly enough
of him right.
Young brings off the lighter textures with a keen sense of colour. The
broad string melodies have a vibrant glow. High woodwinds are transparent,
and she isn't afraid to underline their varied timbres in midrange chords,
as in the Scherzo
. The quiet, open textures at 6:15 of the first
movement are evocative but she's less attentive in the fuller passages.
The very first tutti
blazes brightly but subsequent ones sound
rather indiscriminate, nor do moving parts always stay quite lined up
with the brass themes. The recap of the Scherzo
sounds more brash,
in a banging-you-over-the-head kind of way, than did the first go-round.
, on the other hand, sounds "too busy" at first; the
repeated section is more carefully layered the second time.
Young sounds similarly indifferent to contrasts between sections, beating
poker-faced through full-scale register shifts, Bruckner's analogue
to stop-changes on the organ. In the first movement, for example, the
eruption at 7:11 isn't sufficiently prepared; neither is the lighter
passage that follows at 7:29. It's no surprise, then, that the arrival
of the recapitulation, at 8:16, is practically a non-event -- it passes
almost unnoticed -- and the second theme's return at 9:38 sounds unimportant.
Similarly, the Finale
is a dead loss: its musical episodes minimally
acknowledged. There are plodding syncopations in the second theme to
boot and the movement’s finish brings more relief than culmination.
Finally, and fatally, Young misjudges the lyric themes: they flow and
sing easily, but want more space around the notes. The first movement's
sounds pretty, but the string tone doesn't have time
to bloom. The slow movement, more Andante
than the indicated
, lacks repose, and basically just elapses.
I've not heard this decoded for Super Audio. In normal stereo, the sound
is reasonable, with clean, focused basses. A perceived lack of depth
and richness is more likely a function of the playing than of the engineering.
Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.
Masterwork Index: Bruckner