Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Symphony No. 7
Herbert Blomstedt, cond; Leipzig Gewandhaus O
QUERSTAND 708 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 69:45) Live: Leipzig 11/23–25/2006
Each month brings an SACD issue of Bruckner’s Seventh, and the latest entry comes, essentially, from the source. The work was first
performed by the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1884 under Artur Nikisch, a conductor who would lead the orchestra in all of Bruckner’s symphonies, including a full cycle during the 1919–20 season. That, of course, was long ago, but the current generation of the orchestra has had a natural feel for the music, at least under its recently retired music director, Herbert Blomstedt.
Blomstedt has always struck me as a disciplined, solid, middle-of-the-road conductor without much of a personal profile. His recordings of Nielsen and Sibelius are, on every objective level, excellent, but not as
as those of, say, Bernstein (which many listeners will regard as a point in their favor). So I was never inspired to investigate his previous Bruckner recordings on Decca and Denon, or the earlier releases in the Querstand mini-survey from Leipzig (the Third and Eighth are already out, but seem not to have been reviewed in
). A little discographic research shows that Blomstedt’s various performances of the Seventh (consistently Haas/1885) have, along with Karajan/EMI, always been among the slowest treatments of this edition among major conductors other than the
Celibidache. (Note that the total time of this disc includes 1:18 of fore and aft applause, separately tracked.) Still, a minute or two over the course of a work that lasts more than an hour doesn’t make a huge difference.
What does make a difference is Blomstedt’s ability to sustain the line and flow of this score. He maintains firm rhythmic definition, but not to the point at which it becomes the sole driving force; Blomstedt allows melody and, to a slightly lesser extent, harmony to be equally motivating factors. Indeed, Blomstedt has an almost Italianate ability to make the strings sing (just listen to the phrasing of the first movement’s initial theme). He’s less successful at decongesting the brass climaxes, but the orchestra plays for him with character, and the sound is captured with great clarity—less swimmy than Nézet-Séguin on Atma (see
31:3), less dry than Haitink on CSO Resound (reviewed in 31: 4). I gave Haitink, another straightforward interpreter, a favorable review, but frankly, and to my surprise, I find Blomstedt a bit more
FANFARE: James Reel
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 7 in E major, WAB 107 by Anton Bruckner
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Written: 1881-1883; Vienna, Austria
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