Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 - Janowski
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186450
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Review by Graham Williams - November 11, 2013
With this issue of Bruckner's 4th Symphony Marek Janowski's completes his cycle of the nine Bruckner symphonies for PentaTone.
Knowledge of Bruckner as a devout Catholic and the oft quoted description of his symphonies as being 'cathedrals in sound' sometimes leads to the rather nebulous notion of 'spirituality' or lack of it being bandied about when recorded performances of these works are discussed. All too often the presence of this intangible spiritual quality is equated with sluggish tempi and portentous pauses. Janowski's vital, though never superficial, way with Bruckner provides a refreshing alternative to some of the overly pious behemoths in the catalogue that is worth investigating.
There has been a consistency in Janowski's approach to Bruckner that for many has made this cycle so satisfying and ultimately most rewarding. This consistency is often characterized by a refreshingly brisk view of the composer's tempo markings combined with a clear understanding of the architecture and the tempo relationships between the movements in these symphonies.
In the cycle's final release of what is probably Bruckner's most popular symphony the strengths, and for some weaknesses, of Janowski's interpretative style are again in evidence. He opts for the familiar 1878/80 version edited by Leopold Nowak and his timings for the work's four movements are: I 18'.15”, II 15'.30”, III 10'.53”, IV 18'.46”. Though I found a welcome sense of urgency and forward momentum in the first three movements – especially the 'hunting Scherzo', the finale, whilst magnificently executed, lacked some of the grandeur found in the performances of such Bruckner luminaries as Günter Wand, Bernard Haitink and Herbert Blomstedt.
The distinctive timbre of the Suisse Romande Orchestra combines many of the best characteristics of German and French orchestras – piquant woodwind, supple, if slightly grainy, strings and bright, cleanly articulated brass – and they respond eloquently to Janowski's clear-sighted guidance.
The luminous sound quality, as captured by the Polyhymnia team in the fine and reverberant acoustic of the Victoria Hall, Geneva, matches that of the earlier issues. The dynamic range is wide and the multi-channel recording conveys both the hall's ambient bloom and a fine sense of scale.
The choices of alternative versions of this symphony are legion, but Janowski's vigorous and splendidly recorded reading definitely deserves consideration from any Bruckner aficionado.
Copyright © 2013 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net