Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 - Rattle
LSO Live LSO0887
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
Conducting Bruckner, says Rattle, is a lifelong quest for some “extraordinary vista, some wonderful moment which leads you out of this world”. This certainly rings true for Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, the opening theme for which is said to have come to him in a dream, played by an angel. This huge, glowing mountain-range of sound is all at once majestic, reverent and terrifying.
This edition of the symphony by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs was first performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle in September 2022, and the recording completes a set of three albums which also features Cohrs' editions of Bruckner’s Fourth and Sixth symphonies.
Making use of Bruckner’s discarded fragments and lesser-known material through his many revisions, this set of albums is a must-listen for lovers of Bruckner’s music, and gives us a glimpse into the composer’s untold musical thoughts.
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Review by Graham Williams - September 21, 2023
Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra present their third release on the LSO Live label, featuring a rendition of one of Bruckner’s most popular symphonies. Just as in Rattle's prior recordings of Bruckner's 4th and 6th symphonies, he opts for the new Critical Edition curated by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs for this album. The recording, available on multi-channel SACD, captures two distinct performances held at the Barbican in September and December of 2022, each featuring somewhat different personnel within the orchestra, as noted in the accompanying booklet.
Unlike some of Bruckner's symphonies, the 7th stands apart with its absence of the multiple revisions that often complicate the selection of recordings. For this piece, most conductors tend to favour either Robert Haas' 1944 edition or Leopold Nowak's 1954 version. The Cohrs' edition, akin to Nowak's, retains the striking cymbal crash in the slow movement, though even discerning listeners might find few, if any, deviations elsewhere from the aforementioned editions.
In comparison with some other conductors Rattle has adopted uncontroversial tempi throughout in his account, clocking in at a duration of 63 minutes and 33 seconds. He forgoes the urgency of Ivan Fisher (56 minutes and 43 seconds) and the more expansive readings of Paavo Järvi (67 minutes and 27 seconds) and Yakov Kreizberg (67 minutes and 54 seconds), among others in the substantial catalogue of rival SACD versions of this symphony.
Throughout the performance, the London Symphony Orchestra exhibits exceptional form, showcasing their mastery in all four movements while seamlessly following Rattle's precise guidance. The orchestra's layout, with violins divided left and right and basses positioned at the rear, enhances the sonic clarity, allowing listeners to grasp Bruckner's intricate string writing. The woodwind and brass sections of the LSO maintain their consistently high standard. The former displays nuanced tonal variations and clarity, while the latter produces a robust and weighty resonance that enables Rattle to achieve remarkable depth of expression, especially in the symphony's profoundly moving slow movement.
Recording Bruckner at the Barbican may not be the optimal choice, yet the engineers have admirably overcome the venue's acoustical challenges. The resulting sound on this multi-channel SACD is both expansive and finely detailed, ensuring that even in this less-than-ideal setting, the beauty and complexity of the performance are fully preserved.
Devotees of Rattle's artistry will undoubtedly want to incorporate this vibrant rendition of Bruckner's 7th Symphony into their collections. However, like all fresh recordings of extensively covered pieces, it contends with a wealth of outstanding past versions in a fiercely competitive field.
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