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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Böck liest Bruckner I – Briefe und Musik
Wolfgang Böck (speaker)
Elizabeth Wimmer (soprano)
Daniel Linton-France (piano)
rec. live, 3 October 2018, Brucknerhaus Linz, Austria
GRAMOLA 99195 [82.42]

It sounds close to damning with faint praise to say that for all the merits of this recording, I doubt I shall play it very often, or even at all, in future.

For those who attended the event in Linz, with Wolfgang Böck reading letters of Bruckner, interspersed with musical interludes, it would have been a fascinating and enjoyable evening. Böck is clearly a fine actor and reader, able to vary his reading tone, possessed of a beautiful, deep and flexible voice and with all the command and clarity anyone might wish.

And yet …

Despite the myths about his rustic simplicity and simple faith, Bruckner was a genius, with a complex and extraordinarily original mind. But his genius was expressed supremely in musical ways, in the intricacy of his technical language and the subtlety of his textures, as well as the obvious sense of lofty architecture. Socially, he was rather an awkward, if kindly, figure. His musical genius was not matched by comparable facility with the written word. The letters selected here (from 1850 – 1868, read chronologically) demonstrate no more than glimpses into his personality, moments of sorrow and kindness, the evident humility of his applications for various posts, and touches of slightly rough humour in his frequent correspondence with Rudolf Weinwurm, a close friend in Vienna. In the Weinwurm letters we sense more of the inner man. Elsewhere, there are moments of interesting discussion, as in his comments on aspects of Schumann. But there is little that demands repeated listening – for more detailed study one would want the texts. These are not provided, and for those whose German, like mine, is very much less than fluent, this is a barrier to full enjoyment.

The musical interludes add up to a fraction of the total disc. The Bruckner pieces total just over 21 minutes. The songs are attractive examples of fundamentally salon music, lovingly rendered by Elizabeth Wimmer with Daniel Linton-France accompanying. But they are not missing masterpieces, for all their accomplishment. The longest piece by Bruckner, the G major Fantasia from 1868, is a mere four minutes. There are hints in the first part of the symphonic thinker, but brevity is at odds with someone who thought in lengthy paragraphs and chapters, whose genius was expansive. In this piece, as in others, we hear hints of Bruckner the devoted student of earlier masters. The link is explicit in his dutiful arrangement of Schubert’s lovely Der Mondabend, a highlight here.

A curiosity is Tonräthsel: 5 characteristic pieces for pianoforte, by Bruckner’s composition teacher, Otto Kitzler. These ‘tone puzzles’ were given as a gift to Bruckner, and were part of his estate. Well-crafted, these brief pieces here receive their first recording.

Everything is very well-recorded, and neatly presented. Texts of the songs are in German only, notes and a useful list of Dramatis personae in both English and German.

Michael Wilkinson

Steiermärker in G major for Piano, WAB 122 (c.1850) [1.43]
Letter to Josef Seiberl, Eferding, 19 March 1852 [1.19]
Letter to das bischöfliche Konsistorium, Linz, 3 April 1852 [1.26]
Letter to Ignaz Assmayer, Vienna, 30 July 1852 [2.53]
Aus ‘Amaranth’s Waldeslieder’ in G major, WAB 58 (1856) [Part I] [2.02]
Letter to the Organising Committee, Linz, 25 July 1853 [3.31]
Aus ‘Amaranth’s Waldeslieder’ in G major, WAB 58 (1856) [Part II] [1.20]
Letters to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 1 September 1857, 1 August 1858 [1.03]
Letter to the Liedertafel ‘Frohsinn’, Linz, 2 September 1858 [1.03]
Aus ‘Amaranth’s Waldeslieder’ in G major, WAB 58 (1856) [Part III] [2.22]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 6 June 1859 [2.10]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 7 June 1860 [3.55]
Mein Herz und deine Stimme in A Major, WAB 79 (1868) [3.19]
Letter to Rosalia Hueber, Vöcklbruck, 11 November 1860 [0.48]
Fantasia in G major for piano, WAB 118 (1868) [4.09]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 10 February 1861 [1.31]
Letter to the Director, Konservatoriums der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna, 20 October 1861 [2.40]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 7 September 1862 [3.39]
Otto KITZLER (1834-1915)
Tonräthsel: 5 characteristic pieces for pianoforte, Op. 7 (1861) [7.58]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 8 October 1863 [2.42]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 1 March 1864 [1.45]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 18 October 1864 [3.01]
Frühlingslied in A major, WAB 68 (1851) [1.21]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 29 January 1865 [2.17]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 30 August 1866 [2.52]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)/ Anton BRUCKNER
Der Mondabend in A major D141 (1815)/ WAB 200 (1850-51) [2.57]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 19 June 1867 [2.48]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 21 July 1867 [3.53]
Letter to das bischöfliche Ordinariat, Linz, 2 December 1867 [1.17]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 16 January 1868 [1.11]
Stille Betrachtung aus an einem Herbstabende in F-sharp major for piano, WAB 123.2 (1863) [2.15]
Letter to Rudolf Weinwurm, Vienna, 20 June 1868 [3.06]
Letter to the Konservatorium der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna, 28 June 1868 [0.54]

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