Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 3.
Symphony No. 86
Carl Schuricht, cond; Vienna PO; Stuttgart RSO
MEDICI ARTS 16, mono
(79:57) Broadcast: Stuttgart 5/2/1954
At his best, German conductor Carl Schuricht (1880–1967) was one of Bruckner’s most eloquent interpreters. Taped in late 1965 at Vienna’s
Musikvereinsaal, this studio account was Schuricht’s very last Bruckner effort and his only recording of the Third. It has also appeared, without any coupling, on a deleted Preiser CD. Sonic differences are minimal: the Preiser is slightly warmer, while Medici’s has a somewhat wider stereo soundstage. Both CDs are vastly superior to the original Seraphim LP, which suffered from noisy surfaces and a severely deficient bass response.
Schuricht performs the final revised version of 1889 in the edition published by Theodore Rättig (1890), whereas most recent recordings use the 1959 edition by Leopold Nowak. The two editions are of equal length (i.e., same number of bars), but there are multiple differences in instrumentation. A prime example occurs in the two measures that precede the recapitulation (Letter S of the first movement). The Rättig edition answers four trombone notes with four corresponding notes from the horns. This duplicates the way the passage is heard in the 1878 version. By contrast, Nowak omits those horn notes and thereby makes this key transition a bit less satisfying. The Rättig has many bars scattered throughout the work that contain additional playing by the horns. There is also an added trumpet line in the Adagio’s climax (bars 188–191) that Robert Simpson misattributed to Franz Schalk (the passage is actually written in Bruckner’s own hand).
Regardless of the edition used, Bruckner’s final version of the Third is often criticized for its truncated finale, which omits a full recapitulation. Also, the three recollections of the earlier movements near the finale’s end that are heard in the 1873 original (reduced to just one in 1878) are now gone altogether. Bruckner obviously had second thoughts about those passages, which imitate the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth. After completing his Fifth (which also has three reminiscences of what’s gone before, but quite early in the finale), Bruckner likely considered the use of that tactic to be a mere redundancy when he revised the Third. At any rate, in the right hands, Bruckner’s final revision is simply magnificent. This version of the Third was my first exposure to Bruckner’s music back in the 1960s, and it’s still the composer’s work that I listen to most frequently.
Schuricht’s Third has fine sound, adroit execution, and transparency of texture, not to mention Vienna’s glowing horns and gorgeous strings. There are no textual deviations worth noting, and the performance lasts 55:15, which is right around the average. Despite all those pluses, I have mixed feelings about this reading. Schuricht here is quite straight and rather uninflected; the spontaneous lilt and subtle modifications of tempo heard to such fine effect in his live 1963 VPO Fifth (deleted DG) are largely absent, and the dramatic passion of his 1964 Hague Seventh (Japanese Denon) is nowhere in evidence. Schuricht is also up against formidable competition in this score from two conductors who also were born during Bruckner’s lifetime: Volkmar Andreae (1879–1962) and Hans Knappertsbusch (1888–1965). Andreae’s stunning 1953 Vienna Symphony account is now available in a nine-disc Music & Arts set (reviewed elsewhere), while Kna’s very powerful 1962 NDR Hamburg concert reading can be heard on Music & Arts 1028, a six-disc set devoted to Kna’s live recordings of Bruckner Symphonies 3–5 and 7–9.
The first movement of Schuricht’s Third is solidly played but lacks the fervent urgency of Andreae’s and the colossal scale of Kna’s (whose first climax is downright terrifying). In the Adagio, Schuricht navigates well, but without Andreae’s sense of turbulent anguish or Kna’s introspection. Incidentally, the work’s lone remaining Wagner quotation—it’s the “Magic Fire” motif from
—appears in the descending strings very near the Adagio’s close (heard here at about 13:33), just before the music oddly starts to resemble the later Largo from Dvo?ák’s
Schuricht’s reading of the Scherzo is rather tame and his Trio lacks the extra “gemütlich” touches of Andreae and Kna, who revel in a second theme that always reminds me of “Olly, olly, oxen free!” from childhood games of hide and seek (possibly derived from the German “Alle, alle auch sind frei!” that, loosely translated, means “Everybody is free!”). Sadly, Schuricht is at his weakest in the finale. The famous polka/chorale is well done, if lacking Andreae’s rustic charm and Kna’s foot-stomping merriment, but the coda hangs fire due to a rigidly inflexible tempo. The fanfares that immediately precede the trumpet’s arrival at the D Major apotheosis come across as a shade stolid and ponderous. By contrast, Andreae’s air of triumph at the end is utterly spectacular.
Less needs to be said about the live mono Haydn 86, which has already appeared on a CD set from Hänssler (coupled with a 1958 Schuricht/Stuttgart Mahler Second). That release was reviewed in
31:4 by Paul Ingram, who found the Haydn “rather tense” and complained that “the opening is heavy and slipshod.” That seems to me a fair assessment (the strings and winds at the start do sound a bit ragged and out of tune). This was the conductor’s first-ever performance of the work, and for the most part it’s rhythmically alert, quite lovely in the Capriccio-Largo, and has a Minuet that avoids the typically heavy and slow mannerisms of a Beecham or a Walter. The finale is fast, furious, and rather exhilarating. However, a much finer live Haydn 86 (1961 NDR Hamburg) was once available on a Disques Refrain CD, along with Schuricht’s only recording of the Overture to Beethoven’s
and a remarkable Schubert “Unfinished.” That Haydn 86 is superbly played and strikes me as considerably more elegant than Bernstein’s (Sony) and a good deal warmer than the period-instrument recordings from Kuijken (Virgin) and Bruggen (Philips).
Bottom line: despite my criticisms, Schuricht’s Bruckner Third is still worth owning. Its stereo sound and level of execution are superior to the mono efforts from Andreae and Kna, the use of divided violins reveals many novel effects (especially noticeable at the start of the finale), and, after all, the Vienna Philharmonic was the ensemble Bruckner had in mind while composing the work.
FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 3 in D minor, WAB 103 by Anton Bruckner
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: Vienna, Austria
Symphony no 86 in D major, H 1 no 86 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Written: 1786; Eszterhazá, Hungary
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