Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 - Rattle
LSO Live LSO0875 (2 discs)
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
The air shimmers and glows, and somewhere in the mists, a solitary horn gives a lonely call. The stuff of fairytales? The truth is, it’s impossible to write about Bruckner’s majestic Fourth Symphony without letting the imagination soar; he never wrote anything more colourful, or more poetic. In Germany, they call it the ‘Romantic’ symphony, and it’s easy to hear why.
Sir Simon Rattle loves Bruckner’s Fourth, and on this new recording from LSO Live, he conducts the work in all its splendour: music that never gets any less stirring, and has never sounded so fresh. He is aware, too, that Bruckner’s inspiration burned so brightly that he ended up with more ideas than he could actually use. “There is much wonderful music which remains almost entirely unplayed” he says. On this album he steps inside Bruckner’s workshop, bringing to light some of the music that didn’t make the final cut.
This edition of the symphony and its discarded Scherzo and Finale by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs was published in 2021. The world premiere performance with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO 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, 2022
This is most imaginative release from Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO and one, I would venture to suggest, that all Bruckner devotees will wish to add to their libraries irrespective of how many other recordings of this symphony they own.
Rattle is not a conductor one immediately associates with Bruckner though over the past 20 years the composer’s works have played an increasing prominence in his concerts. This is especially the case during his tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he performed Bruckner’s last three symphonies and recorded the 4th Symphony with them 15 years ago for EMI. As the performances on this fascinating two-disc SACD set confirm, Rattle has become a passionate and compelling advocate of this composer.
As is well known Bruckner was an almost obsessive reviser of his symphonies – a result of many factors including his personal insecurities and the well-meaning if often misguided advice from his friends attempting to get his works performed. The Fourth Symphony of 1874 exists in three different versions, of which the second is the one most often played. But that version itself was subjected to a number of variants between 1876 and 1881.
Disc I (61’62”)
This offers us a world premiere recording of the 4th Symphony in a new edition by the German conductor and scholar Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (Anton Bruckner Urtext Gestamtausgabe, Vienna 2021) as it stood in 1881. This respects for the first time Bruckner’s suggested cut in the finale, but otherwise it closely follows the familiar version heard on countless recordings of the work.
Disc 2 (65’05”)
Here we are able to experience the evolution of the 4th Symphony beginning with the Scherzo from the 1874 version of the work (revised in 1876) before it was discarded and replaced by the familiar and very different ‘hunt’ scherzo in 1878. Next we have the so-called ‘’Volksfest’ finale making its first appearance on SACD. This was also discarded in 1876 and replaced by a new finale in 1880.
An extended initial version of the slow movement comes next and finally the unabridged finale of 1881. Again all of these are performed in the new 2021 Urtext edition by Cohrs.
Plenty here for ardent Brucknerites to get their teeth into and certainly music worth hearing!
Rattle’s enthusiasm for Bruckner’s music, and this Symphony in particular, shines through on this recording, His performance, a combination of magisterial grandeur and thrusting dynamism, is fully realised by a committed LSO on superlative form. Though all sections of the orchestra acquit themselves with distinction, special praise must be accorded to the horn section (led by Timothy Jones and Diego Incertis Sánchez).
According to the liner notes the live recording, made in DSD 256fs, took place in the Jerwood Hall, at LSO St Luke’s on 5th October 2021 and the sound quality benefits from the venue’s more accommodating acoustic rather than that of the orchestra’s usual Barbican home.
In all respects this is a most rewarding issue and Rattle’s next Bruckner release (the 7th Symphony) will be keenly anticipated by the conductor’s many admirers.
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