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Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 - Blomstedt

Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 - Blomstedt

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Classical - Orchestral


Bruckner: Symphony No. 1

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Herbert Blomstedt (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - October 29, 2012

Revelatory.

This cycle (amongst others) is evidence that today is a golden age of music making. What characterises Blomstedt's direction (and, indeed, the response of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig) is a naturalness to the playing that is - of course - extremely hard to achieve on a repeated basis. In each movement, every phrase runs into the next as if a perfectly rehearsed, scripted dialogue were being overheard. What is so compelling is the directionality of the playing that each and every member seems to give their line in a way that is completely unified in goal whilst retaining individual expression. It is though the orchestra has been transformed into one giant organic being; an experience that many will have heard in the concert hall but seldom captured on disc.

Blomstedt faces stiff competition in this work, even just on SACD, from the likes two other ongoing cycles: Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 - Janowski & Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 - Young (all 3 use the Nowak edition of 1865/66 "Linz") not to mention other illustrious surveys on RBCD from Bohm, Jochum, Karajan & Wand amongst others. Suffice to say, this belongs such esteemed company and in many ways (recorded sound being a clear one), deserves to be first amongst equals. Blomstedt takes a more relaxed tempo than Janowski and it allows the music to breathe "naturally", where at times Janowski seems to press on despite the music appearing to warrant a (slight) relaxation in the pulse.

In the slow movement, Blomstedt is again more relaxed than Janowski but also Young; despite this his direction and the magnificent playing keeps the tension from sagging and the luminous wind playing captivates the ear in a way that is quite unlike most other Bruckner. The opening bars of the Scherzo sets the quality of the hall (which has huge implications for what the players are able to achieve) sets this release apart from Janowski's & Young's. The slightly smaller reverberation time lets the wind of Leipzig be far more expressive than those of the OSR (in particular - the Geneva hall is not renowned for acoustic splendour) dare allow. The transparency of sound that is achieved (whilst retaining richness, thanks to a solid foundation from superb double basses) is a rare feat in the forte (plus) passage work. Like Janowski, Blomstedt allows the Trio to be delightfully limpid but many will prefer the character and sonorities of the woodwind & horn here.

The finale is tremendously dramatic in Blomstedt's hands - it sets off at quite some pace but never lacks time to relax as the mood of the music seems to require in these hands. In some of the woodwind interpolations, a Mendelssohnian character is evoked which is pure joy to the ears (somewhat fittingly given their former music directors association!) and that Blomstedt manages to meld this into the more recognisably Brucknerian passages so "easily" is a tribute to the work that he and the LGO have done together over the years. After a few seconds pause, this performance is greeted with richly deserved applause.

The recording is wonderful - we are just "there". These are edited concert performances but - slight audience participation between movements - one would never realise that these were not studio based such is the quality of the sound achieved (some is doubtless Blomstedt's & the orchestras achievement but no small part is the skill of the engineering team & the hall itself). If only orchestras that also record mainly or exclusively in concert all had halls (at least) as good as this!

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2012 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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