Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony 6 in A Major, WAB 106 (ed. Haas/Williamson)
Bruckner Orchestra Linz/Markus Poschner
rec. 19-22 January 2021, Musiktheater, Rehearsal Hall, Linz, Austria
CAPRICCIO C8080 [55:05]
After the initial reaction to the swift opening tempo, the thing that strikes this listener is the odd recording balances, which I attribute to the Capriccio engineers use of multiple microphones to overcome the apparent limitations of the recording venue, the rehearsal hall at the Linz Music Theater. To my ear the recorded sound is unappetizing: a multi-microphoned, confusing soundstage with brass - especially the trumpets - overbearing and harsh, and strings with a glassy sheen in forte passages. Instrumental solos are given a disconcertingly unnatural spotlight at times. Throughout the CD I failed to hear a true pianissimo, or even much of a piano dynamic – probably not the sound produced in the room, but rather an artifact of the close-microphone engineering.
I had mistakenly assumed that the Bruckner Orchestra Linz was native to the Brucknerhaus Concert Hall - that of the fabulous acoustic on the shore of the Beautiful Blue Danube in Linz and location of the 1990s Japanese Camerata cycle with Kurt Eichhorn and Martin Sieghart. Indeed, the Capriccio booklet's sole photograph of the Orchestra is on the stage of the Brucknerhaus! But no, although the BOL performs public subscription concerts in the Brucknerhaus, for reasons unknown (scheduling? rental fees?), they had chosen to record at the Music Theater, which *is* the orchestra's home...but in its rehearsal hall! I've never seen that space, thus my sole source of evaluation is the CD in question. Here the result is harsh and artificial sounding, which is a disservice to the acknowledged excellence of this world-class orchestra.
Poschner's brusque approach to B6 and the sound in the hall as captured on microphone produce a less-than-stellar result. For me, the interpretation seriously misfires with the two outer movements. Both are too rushed, with push-pull, abrupt, and disruptive tempo changes. The first movement is particularly brutalized - Bruckner's headline marking is Majestoso "Majestic", which in my opinion Poschner ignores in favor of a frenetic "as fast as possible" at critical places, including a ridiculous, and ruinous, subito accelerando in the last measures of the coda.
The last movement is not as brutalized, but the sudden, excessive, and disconcerting tempo shifts result in an almost incoherent lack of musical continuity. Overall, too fast - where Bruckner says explicitly "not too fast" - and superficial, at times almost slapstick in its bounciness. I am not dogmatic in insisting that conductors stick to the score and eschew their personal interpretation of the music; but when carried to excess as is the case here, the results are unfortunate, with the grandeur and majesty inherent in Bruckner getting short shrift. A telling quote in the booklet notes from Maestro Poschner gives us a clue, perhaps: "...if only one was sufficiently willing to question the score and separate wrong tradition from true tradition." A slippery slope, I think, in this case.
The middle movements are rather more mainstream, with a lovely Adagio as the best realized portion of this recording, characterized by lushly expressive playing from the massed strings. Instrumental spotlighting remains a problem, however, with woodwinds at times as loud as the full orchestra. The Scherzo and Trio are given a straightforward interpretation and performance.
As mentioned earlier, Kurt Eichhorn on Japanese Camerata has recorded a much finer rendition of the Sixth with this orchestra, in the superior acoustic of the Brucknerhaus in Linz. Nevertheless, some listeners who, unlike me, like their Bruckner fast and furious will find the Capriccio CD attractive. Excellent notes on the music are provided by Bruckner scholar Prof. Paul Hawkshaw of the Yale University School of Music. By the bicentennial year 2024, the complete Capriccio box will, in addition to the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, include recordings of some of the Bruckner symphonies with the ÖRF Radio Symphony Orchestra of Vienna, also under the direction of Markus Poschner.
John Gladney Proffitt
Member, Board of Directors
Bruckner Society of America,
Previous review: Ralph Moore