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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Wesendonck Lieder (1858) [18:39]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major (1886, aka the “1878/80” version Ed. Nowak) [61:10]
Kathrin Göring (mezzo-soprano)
Internationale Junge Orchesterakademie/Matthias Foremny
rec. live 19, 20 & 22 April 2019, Max Reger-Halle, Weiden, Germany
ORCHESTRA CD 2019 [79:49]

This is yet another live Bruckner recording from a highly talented and professional youth orchestra, whose excellent Fifth Symphony I previously reviewed.

I was initially less impressed by this recording than I was by the Fifth from the same forces. After a nervy start, there is a somewhat rushed, perfunctory feeling to the bucolic opening, which lacks lilt and charm and for some reason the strings, a year later, sound wirier than in 2018, and neither intonation nor ensemble is as secure as it formerly was; the same is true of the Wesendonck Lieder. Bruckner performances requires an indefinable sense of occasion to make their full impact, which I find to be missing here as the music is pressed too hard. The wistful slow movement, however, is more successful in capturing the requisite atmosphere; it is noble and hieratic, with an underlying, cumulative power to its steady tread. The Scherzo is better yet, with light, fleet horn playing – though the rhythm goes awry on the entrance of the first entry of the clarinets. There is a grand climax for the ensemble before the Trio and a rousing, very animated conclusion to the movement. In fact, the performance as a whole gradually improves all the way through, from a rather lacklustre first movement to a taut, tense finale which successfully embraces the splendour and exuberance of Bruckner’s vision. I would not say that the final five minutes achieves the same apotheosis as the best versions and compared with the ebb and flow in dynamics and phrasing in, for example, Karajan’s account, there is a certain careful deliberateness to proceedings. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect to hear the same confident élan from a youth orchestra as the Berlin Philharmonic in its pomp but comparison does reveal something of a gulf between them – which is hardly surprising.

The symphony is preceded by the Wesendonck Lieder. Kathrin Göring delivers a pleasant, unexceptionable performance in a voice of no particular tonal distinction, a tendency to allow her vibrato to flap and a yelping attack on notes which starts to obtrude in the second song; nor is the orchestral string tone as sweet as it needs to be. Foremny generally takes the songs much too fast, especially “Im Treibhaus”, robbing them of their grandeur and minimalising their aching, sensuous passion. I cannot think why anyone would choose to hear these lovely songs performed thus when you can hear them delivered far better by any number of singers such as Baker, Norman, Ludwig or Farrell. For all the admirable achievement of the IJOA, the same is true of the Bruckner symphony; we are too spoiled for choice.

(A misprint in the track listings has Wagner dying at twenty years old in 1833; it should of course, be 1883.)

Ralph Moore

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

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