Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 - Janowski
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186354
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Marek Janowski (conductor)
Review by Mark Novak - October 8, 2009
Right after symphonies 8 and 5, the Bruckner 6th is my next favorite of his symphonies. Among the least performed and recorded of Bruckner's oeuvre, I find the 6th an exhilarating experience with the right performance. The work is weighted towards the fist two movements each of 17+ minutes in length and does not possess the weighty finale of most of his symphonies. It was also the first of his symphonies that he never revised so the matter of recording edition is not in dispute for this work. While I am not familiar with the other two extant Sym 6 SACD's (Asahina on Canyon and Blomstedt on Cryston) I have heard this work on RBCD's conducted by Solti, Barenboim, Haitink and Inbal. Of all of the one's I've heard, the Solti brings the most excitement with the CSO brass making a big statement. Haitink falls on the other end of the spectrum - rather boring and gemutlikeit.
Janowski falls somewhere between Solti and Haitink - he coaxes a coherent ensemble sound from the Suisse Romande orchestra who play rather well throughout. He builds the climaxes in the first movement pretty well though the fff brass can sound a bit raw. But, he ain't Solti (who is?) and so I miss some of the ferocity that Solti brought to this work. Nevertheless, this interpretation is a fine one and if you are not familiar with this work it represents the notes well.
This was recorded in Geneva at Victoria Hall (I've been there some years ago) and I believe it is Pentatone's first recorded effort in that hall (a prior release of the Franck and Chausson symphonies by Janowski and the Suisse Romande players was recorded in a studio and has unusally opaque and muddy sonics for this label). The sound on this SACD (stereo) is decent but less than the finest Pentatone has offered to date. The bottom end lacks bloom and the brass can become shouty in the loudest passages. Since its been years since I experienced Victoria Hall, I don't know if this is a hall issue and/or an engineerig issue. Ensemble strings and winds sound reasonably natural though the soundstage is a bit flat. In light of the paucity of recorded sixths to date, recommended.
Copyright © 2009 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - October 18, 2009
I am sorry to say that this recording is, overall, a disappointment.
The tempo choices of Janowski are, in the main, conventional and leave nothing to quibble at with the one exception of the finale: this is fast and in places too fast for the instruments to articulate with the sufficient weight that one expects in the music of Bruckner. One highlight is the way that the woodwind so convincingly relate the trio of the Scherzo to the fifth symphony. The ensemble, with one crucial failing, is unified and presents a sound that is really rather central European.
That failing is the trombones - for whatever reason, they are frequently brash to the point of being blatent and raw in a way that does not flatter the remainder of the orchestra. If one had to guess at why, it is almost as though the Suisse Romande orchestra needed trombonists and could only find youthful players who had imbibed a little too much Dutch courage. For both the tempo choices in the finale with their subsequent effects on the sonorities and the ludicrously brazen trombone playing (which might strike one as exciting in a concert) this cannot be easily tolerated upon repetition. It is such a shame for the remainder of the brass, whilst playing to the full dynamic requirements of the score, do not fall into this trap.
The sound from Pentatone is good without being first class, no mean feat given the reputation of the Victoria Hall in Geneva.
As a stop-gap this is fine but I am sure that rival recordings will come along to supplant this issue.
Copyright © 2009 John Broggio and HRAudio.net
Review by Graham Williams - October 30, 2009
Bruckner thought very highly of his sixth symphony and, unlike many of his other symphonies, it has never been subjected to multiple textual revisions by hands other than the composer. Yet in spite of its modest length (at around an hour), its clear structure and strong memorable themes, unaccountably it has never attained the popularity of say the 4th or 7th symphonies.
On disc this symphony has received numerous recordings, yet few if any have been completely satisfying, even from conductors as distinguished as Karajan, Jochum, Haitink and Solti, while Fürtwangler’s recording is only a torso with the first movement missing. This new version from Janowski and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (using the Nowak edition) has much to recommend it.
The pulsating violins that open the first movement seemed tentative and steady rather than urgent, but when the first main theme bursts forth from the full orchestra one is immediately conscious of both the splendour of the OSR’s playing and the spaciousness of the recording. Janowski relaxes into the lyrical second subject, perhaps losing a little forward impetus, but thereafter he builds the movement convincingly to a thrilling climax.
The wonderfully mourning ‘Adagio, sehr feierlich’ that follows is intensely moving, with notably sensitive playing from the orchestra’s wind and string sections. Janowski allows it to unfold at an unhurried, but never sluggish tempo. The forceful tread of the scherzo is equally finely realised contrasting well with the confident horns and delicate pizzicato of the magical central trio. The finale of this symphony seems to be problematic for even the most experienced Bruckner specialists. Some risk letting it ramble or become episodic whilst others (including, surprisingly, Fürtwangler) ignore Bruckner’s ‘nicht zu schnell’ marking and race through it. Janowski adopts this latter approach, but to me the result is refreshingly exhilarating and joyful rather than rushed and superficial. Bruckner’s remark “Die Sechste ist die Keckste” (the Sixth is the sauciest) seems particularly apt here.
Erdo Groot and the Polyhymnia recording team have achieved magnificent results in the acoustic of the Victoria Hall, Geneva. The recently restored hall has quite a reverberant acoustic ideally suited to Bruckner’s unique sound world. The way in which the engineers have captured the burnished brass sound of the OSR is particularly realistic, yet the recording allows textures to remain clear even in the most complex sections of the symphony.
In short a fine performance captured in superbly vivid multi-channel sound.
Copyright © 2009 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net