Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 - Osmo Vänskä
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"
ymphony No.4 in E-flat major has belonged to Anton Bruckner's most popular works ever since its first performance, in Vienna 1881, when the composer was reportedly called out to take a bow after each movement. It is often called the ‘Romantic', a nickname that Bruckner himself used, most probably in reference to the literary genre of the medieval romance, rather than to the concept of romantic love.
Indeed, Bruckner is claimed to have provided a sort of programme to the work, setting the scene for its opening as follows: ‘Medieval town – first daylight – on proud chargers knights sally forth ... the wonder of nature surrounds them ...' What was performed in Vienna in 1881 was a second, revised version of the symphony, which had actually already seen first light in 1874. In spite of the success of the revised version, further revisions took place before publication, resulting in the so-called ‘1888 version' recorded here.
Although this remained the preferred version for several decades, it later became discredited, as it was assumed that the revisions it contained were the product of others than the composer himself. The rehabilitation of the 1888 version is to a large extent due to the efforts of the musicologist Benjamin Korstvedt, who in 2004 prepared the first modern edition of the 1888 version for the Bruckner Collected Works edition. In his liner notes to the present disc, Korstvedt discusses this background, giving a number of interesting illustrations of the differences between editions.
It has been said that Bruckner took Beethoven's Symphony No.9 as the starting point for his symphonies. It therefore seems logical that Osmo Vänskä and his Minnesota Orchestra have chosen to record this work after their acclaimed cycle of Beethoven's symphonies. Re-released as a boxed set in 2009, the Beethoven recordings were described as ‘unquestionably one the great Beethoven cycles' on website ClassicsToday.com and ‘unswervingly rewarding' in Classic FM Magazine, while the reviewer in American Record Guide found it ‘hard to think of a more distinguished Beethoven cycle by an American orchestra since the legendary Toscanini traversal of 1939.'
Recording: January 2009 at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Producer: Robert Suff
Sound engineer: Hans Kipfer
Equipment: Neumann microphones; Stagetec Truematch microphone preamplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Yamaha 02R96 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation; B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones
Post-production: Editing: Jeffrey Ginn
Mix/mastering: Hans Kipfer, Robert Suff
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by Mark Novak - June 5, 2010
The final version of Bruckner’s 4th symphony (revised 1888, published 1890) is less known today than earlier versions of this symphony. The reason, according to Professor of Music Benjamin Korstvedt (the editor of this 1888 critical edition used in this recording) is that musicologists in the early 20th century believed that Bruckner’s last thoughts on this work were tainted by his associates the Schalk brothers and Ferdinand Lowe and, therefore, the later score had been deemed inauthentic. As a result, the 1888 version had been shunned by both Robert Haas and Leopold Nowak in creating the Collected Works Edition of Bruckner’s symphonies. Continued research has shown that the amendments and changes in the 1888 edition are authentic Bruckner and as such this version is a legitimate contender in Bruckner’s Sym 4 stakes. Kostvedt’s excellent booklet essay for this SACD elaborates on the numerous differences between this version and the earlier and more often recorded 1878/1880 version perhaps the most significant being a cut of 65 bars in the Scherzo third movement. This release appears to be only the second commercial recording, and the only SACD, of the 2004 Korstvedt edition (the world premier performance was by the Tokyo New City Orchestra conducted by Akira Naito and would appear to be available on the Delta Classics label).
As one who is familiar with the original 1874 version (via Nagano’s excellent Sony SACD) and the prolific 1878/1880 version (numerous RBCD’s), the present edition hews rather closely to the 1878/1880 in terms of effectiveness and overall impact. Vanska launches the first movement at a good clip, emphasizing flow and rhythm rather than beauty. He doesn’t linger – this is Bruckner for the concert hall rather than a church acoustic. It’s quite refreshing and exciting, really. The following andante is where the beauty emerges and rightfully so – this is marvelous, dare I say, “romantic” music at its best. The hunting call scherzo is also very effective but I will say that I miss those 65 bars of music. The movement, here at 9 minutes, just seemed to end too soon. The closing finale is also begun at a brisk pace but with plenty of room to breathe as it progresses as well as finely judged dynamics throughout. The Minnesota Orchestra performs fabulously for Maestro Vanska. Incidentally, this is not Osmo Vanska’s first commercial recording of a Bruckner symphony. Ten years ago, he recorded Sym 3 for Hyperion which remains on my shelf.
The stereo sonics of the BIS hybrid SACD are excellent. I especially like the fact that the hall acoustic never gets in the way as is too often the case in Bruckner symphony recordings. It matches Vanska’s interpretation perfectly. The band does sound somewhat bigger here than in the acclaimed set of Beethoven symphonies and this aids the music. The dynamic range is huge. The brass and winds are especially impressive sounding. The strings have their natural sheen. My one minor quibble is the orchestral foundation – I would prefer a bit more low end fullness and bloom from the double basses and timps.
A very enjoyable 63 minutes of great music. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2010 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net