Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 6 in a
Bernard Haitink, cond; Staatskapelle Dresden
PROFIL 7011 (57:01) Live: Dresden 2/11/2003
Of all Bruckner’s later symphonies, the sixth remains the least known and heard by the general public. The composer himself is thought to have called it his “boldest” (
) in the genre, and there is a good deal of evidence to back up this claim. Most striking perhaps is the concentration of ideas within the work’s compact form or the
self-evident confidence in the writing, noticeable in the brightness with which the piece is imbued. The ease with which chamber-scale ideas are conveyed by a full orchestra is noteworthy too. Key ingredients to bringing all of this out successfully in performance are a conductor well versed in Bruckner’s idiom and an orchestra possessing an enviable tonal palette.
The opening movement begins with some delicacy, with the upper strings showing clarity of texture against imposing woodwind and brass motifs. Maintaining both aspects in a state of balance is essential to the effectiveness of the movement. This Haitink does by allowing the textures space to breath and emerge unforced in a well-balanced sound spectrum, even though the ebb and flow of the music surges forth and recedes freely at times. The recording has fullness of body and fidelity of tone.
The core of the work is the 17-minute Adagio second movement. Although it captures neither the lofty grandeur or pathos within the Seventh Symphony’s Adagio, it is a noble piece of writing. Haitink secures a soft-grained warmth of richly homogenized string sound, played in long arches of phrasing. The entry of the second subject for violins and violas lightens the mood appreciably. It brings to mind a pastoral landscape view, such is the
feeling of the music in part. As ever with Bruckner, though, more serious colorings are never far from the music’s surface.
A relatively brief Scherzo proves to be far from what one might expect, as it is rather imposing in character. Luxuriant use of the full brass armory comes to the fore ultimately in this closely argued and fluidly executed movement. Haitink scales the craggy face of the Finale with surety of purpose and a clear vision of the movement’s structure. As the movement culminates with the principal theme of the first movement, a feeling of internal cohesion is reached. Haitink and his Dresden forces achieve this without undue overemphasis.
The only alternative recording I have heard, and that only once, featured the Concertgebouw orchestra conducted by Haitink as part of his early Bruckner symphony cycle, made for Philips. To my ears, the early recording was a successful reading in its own terms. But, as my listening notes indicate, it perhaps lacked some forward sweep and momentum. Those are two ingredients that make the live performance of the Staatskapelle Dresden quite impressive.
FANFARE: Evan Dickerson
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 6 in A major, WAB 106 by Anton Bruckner
Written: 1879-1881; Vienna, Austria
Length: 57 Minutes 1 Secs.
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