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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony in D minor WAB 100 (1869) – “Die Nullte”
Philharmonie Festiva/Gerd Schaller
rec. live, Regentenbau Bad Kissingen, Bayerisches Rundfunk – Studio Franken, Germany, 2015. DDD HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH15035 [43:29]
Having completed a highly successful survey of Bruckner’s nine, numbered symphonies with his live recording of the Sixth in March 2013, Gerd Schaller has now turned his attention to the fringes of Bruckner’s output. This new recording from March 2015 of the so-called “Die Nullte” is a most welcome addition to the discography.
I was unfamiliar with this symphony but reassured by my instant recognition of some very Brucknerian tropes in the opening bars which heralded a surprisingly mature and rewarding work; perhaps it is for this reason that although he initially disowned it, Bruckner apparently acknowledged its worth by preserving the score, so that it could be passed by his executors to the Linz state museum. The opening motif is a persistent, scurrying, semiquaver figure over a sombre march and punctuated by stately, defiant brass chords, all very proleptic of the beginning of the Third Symphony. Ultimately a magnificent climax is underlined by a characteristic Brucknerian pause of six beats and we thus remain on familiar territory.
The calm, richly harmonised introduction to the Andante creates a bucolic or pastoral atmosphere, followed by a first falling, then rising, chromatic theme which is passed around the orchestra from the cellos to the woodwind to the flute to the strings. The Scherzo is typically rumbustious and faintly menacing; the Finale is grand but slightly stilted and disjointed; perhaps the least successful movement. Indeed the comparatively short measure of the symphony’s movements – at least by Bruckner’s later standards – may perhaps partially be explained by his inability or unwillingness at this stage of his symphonic career to trust the material to longer development. For all its grandeur, it does not aspire to the cosmic “heavenly length” of the Fifth or the Eighth.
Nonetheless, this is a thoroughly enjoyable work, superbly played by an orchestra which set the highest standards in its Bruckner cycle and in the same warm, spacious, first-rate sound we have come to expect. It's another live recording in the more accommodating venue of the Regentenbau and without the challenge of the reverberation attendant upon the recording of those symphonies performed in Ebrach Abbey. Ralph Moore