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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No.3 in D minor, WAB103 (1871/72[?], revised 1889 version, ed. Nowak)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony/Paavo Järvi
rec. live 19-21 March, 2014, Alte Oper Frankfurt
SACD Hybrid
RCA SICC-10278 SACD [51:54]

The rear cover tells us that the performance here is the “1871/72 Rev. 1889”. Given that we know Bruckner visited Wagner with the manuscript not quite finished in September 1873, the first dates are puzzling, but certainly what we hear is the revised Schalk 1888-89 version. The majority of conductors today perform and record that original 1873 version but Järvi here prefers what are presumed to be Bruckner’s penultimate thoughts, as there is also the option of the 1890 Rättig edition which Gerd Schaller recorded live in 2017.

The Third is one of my favourite Bruckner symphonies and for me marks the advent of the composer’s powers in their plenitude; I do not find that it evinces any of the supposed infelicities or immaturities attributed to it by harsher critics, although I concede that the finale can fragment in less skilful hands. The power and drive of this recording certainly took me by surprise; in my experience of him both live in concert and on disc, Järvi’s gifts are better suited to Bruckner than to Mahler and here he demonstrates a grip over the Brucknerian idiom which is entirely convincing.

This is one of the fastest performances on record, comparable to some by Jochum, Tennstedt, Maazel and Hindemith, but does not sound rushed, just intense and propulsive. My benchmark for this symphony performed in this version has long been Karajan’s sole 1980 recording and while the Frankfurt orchestra cannot aspire to the sheen and torque of the BPO, it is still very fine indeed, and enhanced by the splendour of the digital sound provided here. There is absolutely no audience noise. The mystery of the first bars is profound and thrilling, and the climactic passage around eleven minutes into the first movement, just after the reprise of those semi-quaver mutterings of the opening, is especially impressive. Ensemble is crisp and tight and Järvi’s urgency ensures that Bruckner’s narrative is compelling but the lyricism of the Gesangsperiode is never neglected. The concision of this edition and Bruckner’s of the orchestration to render the sound-world of the Third more akin to that of the later symphonies sit well with Järvi’s interpretative stance. He keeps the thread skilfully in the diffuse Adagio, dynamics are subtly modulated and the orchestral sonorities are lovely; this is echt Bruckner without over-egging, although the concluding melody (which Dvořák appears to have stolen for the Largo of his New World Symphony) is as affectionately caressed as you could wish. The Scherzo is breathless but its waltzing Trio easy-going. The finale is equally driven but again encompasses the charm of the Ländler episodes before concluding in a blaze of Wagnerian splendour.

Ralph Moore
(This review commissioned and reproduced here by kind permission of The Bruckner Journal)

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