Notes and Editorial Reviews
(1878–80, ed. Haas)
Symphony No. 4 in E?,
Klaus Tennstedt, cond; London PO
LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA 0014 (71:01)
The BBC recorded this performance in 1989 in the Royal Festival Hall. The result is one of the truly great recordings of Bruckner’s most popular symphony. Klaus Tennstedt (1926–1998) had been principal conductor of the London Philharmonic since 1983, and had already made a number of memorable recordings with the
orchestra for EMI, including a cycle of Mahler symphonies. This “Romantic” Symphony begins with a true pianissimo, and proceeds at a deliberate tempo through a first movement rather less dramatic than we usually hear, but exceptionally fine even so because of beautiful playing by the orchestra and the transparent acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall. The second movement also begins deliberately, as if Tennstedt was thinking
instead of Bruckner’s
andante quasi allegretto
. Toward the end, however, it picks up speed and a surprising amount of power. After two movements slower than usual, a fast, almost
advances the intensity that surprised us in the Andante, setting the stage for a superbly powerful finale. One often hears loud brass in performances of Bruckner’s symphonies, both in concert halls and from recordings. The London Philharmonic’s brass is certainly loud enough, but above all thrillingly beautiful. This disc has finer sound and is a more original and moving performance than Tennstedt’s Fourth with the Berlin Philharmonic recorded in 1981 (EMI Classics 763895). It becomes a top recommendation for recordings of the 1878–80 version of the Fourth Symphony, along with recordings by Karl Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic (Decca Legends 466 374), and Kurt Sanderling and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra (Profil 5020).
The RPO notes emphasize the tragedy of Tennstedt’s later years, when cancer curtailed and finally ended his fruitful association with that orchestra. I am sorry to say the annotator makes a misleading claim about the Haas edition being played here, as if it were the only “faithful” edition of the Fourth Symphony. It is faithful to one version of the work, but there are other versions, earlier (1874) and later (1888), which have been edited and published just as faithfully as this. Furthermore, Leopold Nowak published a later, still faithful version of the 1878–80 version, informed by a manuscript not available to Haas.
FANFARE: Robert McColley
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in E flat major, WAB 104 "Romantic" by Anton Bruckner
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1874; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 12/14/1989
Venue: Live Royal Festival Hall, London, England
Length: 70 Minutes 36 Secs.
Notes: Version: 1878/80 (ed. Hass)
Composition written: Vienna, Austria (1874 - 1886).
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