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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I listened to 3 Bruckner Symphonies today: 9, 8 and 7. I must say I was happy with my pickings.

In my ears Bruckner is foremost a creator of noble music. It is as though he took the atmosphere of some Wagner, like Lohengring, Tannhäuser and Parcifal, and started to make symphonies. There is something mythical, uplifting and even sacred in the music.

In my ears Bruckner of the later symphonies is never banal or cheap. He knew what he was doing.

Somehow I do not feel the 9th Symphony incomplete.

Which recordings mean the most to you?
 

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Bruckner is one of my desert island composers, I never grow tired of his music.

Sadly, he's one of the most maltreated composers in history, initially being misunderstood and getting "corrected" by his well-meaning supporters, then being the object of a quasi-religious cult, with conductors competing to deliver the most "profound" (read: slow, stolid, disjointed and boring) performances - and finally, being mangled by the Bruckner Scholars, who blatantly disrespect the composer by publishing dozens of inferior early and intermediate versions of his symphonies.

So, in short, what I like in Bruckner is:
  • performances of the versions sanctioned by Bruckner himself, which are invariably and objectively the best. We know which ones those are, it's not nearly as complicated as the "experts" make you think.
  • performances that keep the flow and motion of the music intact and don't wallow in sonic misconceptions like a "cathedral sound". I mistrust any Bruckner 8 that doesn't fit on a single cd.
 

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Would you say Guilini’s Bruckner 9th is slow? It’s the only performance of that symphony I have heard and to me it seems nicely paced
Chicago or VPO? If it's the VPO, it's great, praised as one of the great 9ths, but it isn't my kind of Bruckner. People rave over Abbado's last recording as well, but I find it horrible.
My choice 9th is Schuricht (EMI)*, with the same orchestra, but 12 minutes (!) faster than Guilini. Enormous tension, forward propulsion, a strong horizontality, everything that I miss in performances by the "cathedral sound" school.

*or Furtwängler's 1944 recording, which is of course sonically limited but remains one of the greatest recordings of anything by anyone.
 

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I agree with the "noble music" but please, don't neglect a thorough consideration of other dimensions present as important influences in Bruckner's music. In particular, I'm thinking of a Schubertian sense of rusticity, of folk rhythms both dancing and stomping, but also the spinning melodic line, the ever-present Gesangsperiode.
 

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I have Brucker only by Karajan, Baremboim, Jochum and then a bunch of oldies from collection boxes, like Furtwängler.
Karajan's Bruckner I find problematic, but that's just silly old me. Barenboim is excellent in Chicago (specially in the early symphonies, those never sounded better!), a bit less so in his later Berlin cycles.
Jochum is of course indispensable, both Berlin and Dresden, and one of the few conductors that make occasionally slow tempi work for me (that Tahra 1986 CGO 5th!) He "gets" Bruckner like no-one else.

I agree with the "noble music" but please, don't neglect a thorough consideration of other dimensions present as important influences in Bruckner's music. In particular, I'm thinking of a Schubertian sense of rusticity, of folk rhythms both dancing and stomping, but also the spinning melodic line, the ever-present Gesangsperiode.
Schubert's influence on Bruckner was significant and it's one of the keys to understanding his style.
 

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I listened to 3 Bruckner Symphonies today: 9, 8 and 7. I must say I was happy with my pickings.

In my ears Bruckner is foremost a creator of noble music. It is as though he took the atmosphere of some Wagner, like Lohengring, Tannhäuser and Parcifal, and started to make symphonies. There is something mythical, uplifting and even sacred in the music.

In my ears Bruckner of the later symphonies is never banal or cheap. He knew what he was doing.

Somehow I do not feel the 9th Symphony incomplete.

Which recordings mean the most to you?
For what my opinion is worth:
Yes, he wrote noble music, there is nothing cheap, tawdry or silly. It's all very serious.

The 9th is clearly incomplete: Bruckner himself struggled to finish it, but didn't. You may be satisfied with the three movement torso; many people have been. I like the 4-movement work but I'm not sure whose version I prefer.

I have too much Bruckne that's for sure. That music demands superb recorded sound, so despite the importance of people like Furtwangler, Knappertsbusch and others in that pre-stereo era, it's not sonically able to really reveal the music. And, too many conductors treat this music like it's some hallowed religious experience. It's not. Bruckner was a Romantic. He wrote five symphonies before Brahms even wrote one. His music should be played like a product of its time; it needs to move and have a certain freedom of expression. It needs to roar at times. I do not like slow, monumental Bruckner at all. My favorite set is a 30 year old one on the Camerata label with Eichorn and Sieghardt conducting the Bruckner Linz Orchestra. They're thrillingly played, conducted and the recorded sound is terrific. Everything just sounds "right". Next up is Solti/Chicago. Some think it's too loud and glib. I don't: Solti makes them exciting and really ratchets up the excitement. The third set I love is Karajan; if anyone knew the music he did. If there's a problem, it's the DG recorded sound.

What must be kept in mind is that Bruckner wanted people to like his music and he wanted it to have some entertainment value - what composer didn't? So play the music to the hilt!

And the standard editions (Nowak or Haas) are generally just fine. Except the 9th; that's another discussion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Next up is Solti/Chicago. Some think it's too loud and glib. I don't: Solti makes them exciting and really ratchets up the excitement.
Solti knows how to do that for sure!

Thanks everyone so far!

Any experiences on Haitink´s Bruckner?

I will have to contemplate on this and do some research.
 

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As a Dutchman I should be more proud of my country's national heroes, but frankly, Haitink bores me to death. I just don't know what it is with this conductor. He must know pieces like the 8th better than anyone else, made a dozen of recordings of it with the greatest orchestras and yet it sounds like he's sleepwalking through the score. I saw him do the 8th with the EU Youth Orchestra, and I found it hard to believe that such young and energetic people could deliver such a profoundly dull performance.
He wasn't always like this - his first cycle with the CGO had a couple of damn good performances, like the 5th, which was one of the great 5th's of its time. Maybe the orchestra thought it was still playing for Jochum? Then there's that 1978 7th, also with the CGO in amazing sound. But after he left the CGO, he gradually became slower and duller. Same story with his Mahler. And of course the media spun it that his interpretations "deepened" and became more "mature". Yeah, no.

Solti... I don't associate him with Bruckner, they don't seem to be on the same spiritual wavelength, no matter how technically accomplished and exciting his performances are.

As for historical mono recordings, as much as I prefer stereo, I don't see a problem with enjoying those. Bruckner isn't Richard Strauss, his music isn't texturally layered to the degree that you miss meaningful details in all but the most perfect recordings. It can be complex, yes, but the complexity is achieved by relatively simple and transparent means.
As a Bruckner aficionado I couldn't live without Furtwängler, G.L. Jochum, Abendroth, Andreae, Kabasta...
 

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Somehow I do not feel the 9th Symphony incomplete.

Which recordings mean the most to you?
The overall best recording of the 9th is that of Kurt Eichhorn with the Bruckner Orchestra Linz. For example the Adagio is very distinctly and elaborately played. And it has the reconstructed Finale in the best interpretation. Its 30 minutes long in that recording and the highlight of the symphony. Beside that I tend to like older recordings more, and I think it is because of at least the influence of Ferdiand Löwe if not his version. He was the first who conducted the symphony at the beginning of the 20th century in his own version. He made some adjustments especially at the end of the first movement, and some of them are big improvements imo. The codetta and coda of the first movement are basically more clear and powerful. Knappertsbusch and Krips recorded the symphony in that version and even tough the sound quality is bad, the structure of the music develops much more power imo. Recordings of Furtwängler and Schuricht for example seem to be still influenced by ideas of Löwe even tough they don't play his version. They were probably much influenced by the listening experience of the Löwe version which was the only published version for a long time.

In case of the 8th there are many good recordings, no clear preference.

In case of the 7th Celibidache is great at the end of the first movement (probably the place where his slow tempo is the most beneficial), Böhm as well. Furtwängler does the climax of the Adagio best.
 

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Furtwängler does the climax of the Adagio best.
Which one? I always thought the 1949 BPO 7th is the only Bruckner recording by Furtwängler that can rival his 1944 9th. Beautiful, intense - and in pretty good sound. Better than the two 1951 versions (Rome and Cairo), i.m.o.
But there's also that famous 1942 adagio that's even more chilling...

 

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Any experiences on Haitink´s Bruckner?
If I could only recommend one recording of the 3rd symphony I would probably recommend Haitinks with the VPO: Link

I would recommend other recordings mainly because of different versions of the symphony, but for this 1878 version with Scherzo-Coda (which is maybe the best), there is not much room for improvement compared to the Haitink recording imo. The brass sounds really harsh, but the calm and sweet sections sound calm and sweet, so Haitink brings the contrasts good to the bear. The character and athmosphere is great.

Which one? I always thought the 1949 BPO 7th is the only Bruckner recording by Furtwängler that can rival his 1944 9th. Beautiful, intense - and in pretty good sound. Better than the two 1951 versions (Rome and Cairo), i.m.o.
But there's also that famous 1942 adagio that's even more chilling...
I had the 1949 BPO version in mind, but all these recordings have special Furtwängler qualities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
As a Dutchman I should be more proud of my country's national heroes, but frankly, Haitink bores me to death. I just don't know what it is with this conductor. He must know pieces like the 8th better than anyone else, made a dozen of recordings of it with the greatest orchestras and yet it sounds like he's sleepwalking through the score. I saw him do the 8th with the EU Youth Orchestra, and I found it hard to believe that such young and energetic people could deliver such a profoundly dull performance.
He wasn't always like this - his first cycle with the CGO had a couple of damn good performances, like the 5th, which was one of the great 5th's of its time. Maybe the orchestra thought it was still playing for Jochum? Then there's that 1978 7th, also with the CGO in amazing sound. But after he left the CGO, he gradually became slower and duller. Same story with his Mahler. And of course the media spun it that his interpretations "deepened" and became more "mature". Yeah, no.

Solti... I don't associate him with Bruckner, they don't seem to be on the same spiritual wavelength, no matter how technically accomplished and exciting his performances are.

As for historical mono recordings, as much as I prefer stereo, I don't see a problem with enjoying those. Bruckner isn't Richard Strauss, his music isn't texturally layered to the degree that you miss meaningful details in all but the most perfect recordings. It can be complex, yes, but the complexity is achieved by relatively simple and transparent means.
As a Bruckner aficionado I couldn't live without Furtwängler, G.L. Jochum, Abendroth, Andreae, Kabasta...
I have a theory atm without having ever heard Haitink’s Bruckner. But could it be that the solid and stable character of Haitink balances the ”hysteria of Mahler” to the benefit of both, resulting in great recordings?

But in Bruckner there is not so much for Haitink to balance, their characters are more alike to begin with, and so the results are more ”boring”?

I think temperament is an important factor in music making.

On the Schubertian elements: listening to the 4th by Jochum/Berlin and the second theme / countertheme of the first movement is indeed VERY Schubert-like if not borrowed from Schubert.
 

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Bruckner was probably closer to Austrian rural/folk music than Schubert (who lived mostly near/in Vienna), so many of such influences might be directly from this, not via Schubert. But it is very likely that the breadth and scope of Schubert's Great C major also was an important factor.
 

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Noble isn't a word I'd associate with Bruckner's music, at least not in any fundamental way (given the actual meaning of the word). In fact I consider it disparaging . Awe-inspiring, modern (in its time), forward looking and compelling spring to mind.........

As far as preferred recordings go, lately I've been quite taken by Karajan's 1976 live VPO #9 on Deutsche Grammophon.
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Noble isn't a word I'd associate with Bruckner's music, at least not in any fundamental way (given the actual meaning of the word). In fact I consider it disparaging . Awe-inspiring, modern (in its time), forward looking and compelling spring to mind.........
In Finnish the word is ylevä, and there are the English translations! But I am happy to trust you English speakers on this. I still remember the failure of a thread of mine in which I used the word graceful incorrectly. :)
Font Rectangle Material property Screenshot Communication Device
 

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In Finnish the word is ylevä, and there are the English translations! But I am happy to trust you English speakers on this. I still remember the failure of a thread of mine in which I used the word graceful incorrectly. :)
View attachment 172220
Au contraire, some might agree that Nobel is a fitting adjective.
 
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Somehow I do not feel the 9th Symphony incomplete.
I wholeheartedly agree with you.

The music that has been reconstructed from the sketches that Bruckner left strikes me as below par for Bruckner, uninteresting and unmoving; not his usual standard. I'm surprised that so many notable musicians (Rattle, Schaller, Harnoncourt et al) spend so much time on it).

Unlike Mahler 10, the work on which by many outstanding musicians, is an entirely valid and rewarding enterprise.
 
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