Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 - Janowski
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186447
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Marek Janowski (conductor)
Review by Graham Williams - April 10, 2012
There is no shortage of excellent performances of Bruckner symphonies in the catalogue, even on SACD, but Marek Janowski's continuing cycle with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande for PentaTone is proving to be one of the finest currently available. This is not only due to Janowski's consistently clear-sighted command of the architecture of these works, but also to the magnificent recorded sound he has been awarded by the Polyhymnia engineers in an acoustic (Victoria Hall, Geneva) ideal for Bruckner's expansive sonic edifices.
From the symphony's thrusting and purposeful opening one is instantly aware of the vividness and spaciousness of the 5.0 DSD recording that captures both the richness of the OSR strings and the clarity of the woodwind. It is true that the acoustic can sometimes emphasise the prominence of the OSR's incisive brass in the tuttis, but in my experience of live performances of this symphony this is exactly how Bruckner's writing sounds. Janowski has chosen to record the Linz version of 1866 (edited by Leopold Nowak), a version favoured on record by the majority of interpreters of this score.
The deeply expressive 'Adagio' is notable for the eloquence of the string playing and the sense of solemn grandeur that Janowski achieves as the movement unfolds - an altogether most moving account of this lovely slow movement. The rustic scherzo bursts forth with unbridled energy and sharply accented playing, while the relaxed tempo for the gentle trio section with its soft horn calls emphasises most effectively the contrast between the movement's two parts.
The 'Finale', usually regarded as one of Bruckner's structurally weakest movements, with its many changes of mood and tempo is most convincingly interpreted here. Janowki and his orchestra drive the music forward with thrilling momentum - the movement's marking of 'feurig' being in no doubt here. Nevertheless, the more lyrical passages are given the the necessary room to breathe while the danger of a loss in impetus at any point is skilfully avoided. The build up to the blazing closing pages is masterly.
Janowski's fresh and invigorating performance of this symphony, recorded in magnificent multi-channel sound, can be enthusiastically recommended.
Copyright © 2012 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - October 28, 2012
A good release but one ultimately, to these ears, succumbs to even finer competition in the form of Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 - Blomstedt - not just because of the playing or the sonic aspects of the recording either.
Mainly it is down to the less than first-rate hall in which PentaTone do their utmost to give us top-rate sound; an honourable objective but ultimately futile pursuit! In the first movement, Janowski sets off marginally faster than Blomstedt, yet Janowski never lets the pace relax so some passage-work from wind and strings alike seem pressed rather than pressing at times. The slow movement is definitely the high point of the performance with beautifully eloquently playing from strings & woodwind alike. Janowski shows his understanding in German music (as he is in his wonderful ongoing Wagner cycle) to great effect and the sense of repose at the close is most touching.
It is here where a "technical" decision frustrates greatly for, before this listener has had a chance to come back from the delights that were just delivered, the lack of an adequate gap between movements (compared to Blomstedt's) means the fantastically well attacked Scherzo, quite wrests the adagio away before this listener was ready (a similar accusation may be felt to exist between the first two movements). The Scherzo also reveals the lack sophistication that the Victoria Hall (Geneva) allows either Janowski to request or the OSR to provide compared to Blomstedt's Leipziger's: it is like comparing felt-tip pen to watercolour. The finale also is rather "garish" tonally in comparison to Blomstedt's account in the big tutti's - I do not fault anyone for this, it is a necessary consequence of recording in a hall this reverberant that far less detail can be heard by conductor, musicians & listeners.
PentaTone do wonders in this acoustic but in some ways the very fact they realistically portray the sound counts against the release! The way the reverberation of the tutti passages in the scherzo cloud any subtlety of wind playing (to take just one example) that may have been requested is a serious disadvantage when Blomstedt's account is available. Because of this I don't feel it's possible to provide ratings that are in any way meaningful.
Very sadly not recommended.
Copyright © 2012 John Broggio and HRAudio.net