Notes and Editorial Reviews
It’s difficult to find a stand-alone version of the Second Symphony to recommend as a reference version. It remains Bruckner’s most neglected major work, and although it contains some very beautiful things the fact is that there’s nothing in it that he didn’t do better elsewhere. Combined with the usual problem in choosing from about 150 different versions by a plethora of editors with way too much time on their hands, the result is virtually a one-way ticket to symphonic oblivion. It remains a work for Bruckner specialists, and it’s usually available only within the confines of complete symphony sets.
Happily, we do have this absolutely terrific singleton performance, dating from 1975. Horst Stein was a very able Bruckner
conductor. His Sixth Symphony is also excellent, and he has the incomparable Vienna Philharmonic on hand to ensure that the work receives first class treatment. One of Bruckner’s most “stop and go” pieces, especially in its outer movements, one listen to Stein’s handling of the work’s opening reveals that all will be well. The first phrases are appropriately “misty” and yearning, but by the time we get to the end of the melody (trumpets nicely touched in) it’s clear that the music is moving at a real allegro, and the argument has been well and truly launched.
With the challenge of the first movement successfully met, the rest of the work proceeds without a single stumble. The Adagio is aptly serene (and let’s face it, too long), but the scherzo has plenty of fire and the finale, which can die in less capable hands, builds in excitement and energy through the closing pages. The two Weber items make a very welcome coupling, and they are equally well done. By the way, did you ever wonder if Sibelius had this work in mind when writing his own First Symphony There’s evidence he heard Bruckner’s Third Symphony, and clearly was influenced by it (in Kullervo, among other places). Just a thought.
Decca’s sonics have held up extremely well. This is definitely the Second of choice if you’re having only one–and even if you own a big box or two.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 2 in C minor, WAB 102 by Anton Bruckner
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1872-1876; Vienna, Austria
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