Notes and Editorial Reviews
"...the sound of early instruments lends an added pungency to the woodwind and brass sonorities. The French horns are especially distinctive, from the opening solo through the rustic clamor of the Scherzo to the immense brass choruses of the finale. Nor is there any lack of power in those quintessentially Brucknerian string tremolos, despite the use of gut rather than steel strings. But most gratifying is Mr. Herreweghe's command of Bruckner's rhetoric: the eloquent silences; the ebb and flow not only of musical sentences and paragraphs but of entire chapters. Given the multiplicity of Mr. Herreweghe's enthusiasms, it is hard to know whether the really big Bruckner challenges — the Fifth and Eighth Symphonies — lie in his future, but
on this evidence, there is no reason to doubt that he could meet them. Then on to Berg?" -- James R. Oestreich, NEW YORK TIMES
"Revelations were expected here, given conductor Herreweghe's past outings with Bruckner played in a historically informed manner. That means a smaller sonority, gut strings, and not much vibrato. And revelations are indeed at hand in what will probably be the most important Bruckner recording of the year. Herreweghe's orchestra lacks none of the punch of a conventional one, but the individual sections blend in ways that create a new sound envelope for this symphony. And as more subtle rhythms are allowed to emerge amid the more transparent sonorities, the symphony is much less dour, more full of cheer and light. In effect, the piece goes to further extremes than ever, which makes Bruckner's achievement even more impressive."
-- David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer
Philippe Herreweghe is not the first conductor one associates with Anton Bruckner, yet his praiseworthy 2004 release of the Symphony No. 7 in E major for Harmonia Mundi appears to be the first authentic performance practice recording of Bruckner's music, and his 2006 rendition of the Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," continues this commendable pursuit; both discs should lend him and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées better name recognition among Brucknerians. Most will appreciate the absolute clarity Herreweghe elicits from his players, and enjoy the calm, unhurried tempos, sensible touches of rubato, and sweeping phrasing he employs to make this late-Romantic symphony sound convincingly of its time; there is no sense of fussiness or dryness to make it seem like a pedantic exercise in period performance. Those who know this work well have the best opportunity to appreciate Herreweghe's subtleties. Others less familiar with the music may be distracted by the work's obsessive triplets or daunted by its great spans of time, and will miss many fine things, particularly the fascinating timbres produced by nineteenth century woodwinds and brass, which are refreshing to hear in this warhorse. Of course, there are die-hard admirers of old-school, large-scale performances who will favor the fuller sounding recordings by Klemperer, Karajan, or Böhm, and who might dismiss Herreweghe's out of hand as inferior simply because his orchestra is smaller, more refined, and more focused than they are accustomed to hearing. Yet anyone who has an open mind and open ears should give this disc a fair hearing to discover the myriad details that are usually swallowed up in big ensembles or by poorer recording methods. Since Harmonia Mundi's audio technology is simply superb, this CD delivers everything that Herreweghe and his exceptional orchestra played in clean, vibrant reproduction, and does justice to one of the most popular of Bruckner's symphonies. This recording is highly recommended.
-- All Music Guide
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