Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 3
(first version, 1873)
Jonathan Nott, cond; Bamberg SO
TUDOR 7133 (Multichannel Hybrid SACD: 63:12)
28:3, I briefly described the three versions—1873, 1877, and 1889—of Anton Bruckner’s Third Symphony, while reviewing Kent Nagano’s recording of the 1873 version with the Deutsches Symphony of Berlin (Harmonia Mundi 901817, also available as a multichannel hybrid SACD, HMC 801817). For all its virtues of interpretation,
execution, and sound—and sounding even better in the SACD version—I judged it not quite as compelling a performance as one by Georg Tintner and the Royal Scottish Orchestra on Naxos 8.553454. Now a new SACD from Tudor further complicates the picture. Jonathan Nott, an English conductor enjoying a major career in Europe, leads a powerful performance of the symphony, and the Bamberg Symphony never sounded better. In “super audio” five-channel sound, this is now clearly the best recording to date of the 1873 version. It is also one of the shortest; Nagano is more than five minutes longer, and Tintner more than 14! The first commercial recording by Eliahu Inbal and the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra clocked in at 65:12, and the fastest ever, by Roger Norrington and his London Classical Players, zipped by at 57:25. In placing Nott and Tintner at the head of my list, I obviously do not care how fast the music is played, but how convincing a conductor and orchestra can make their interpretation sound. Nott, like Tintner, creates drama through persuasive dynamic and rhythmic contrasts, adding up to a complete and compelling conception. It is especially gratifying to find a relatively young (born 1962) conductor creating a profound and exciting performance reminiscent of much older conductors, such as Bruno Walter, Carl Schuricht, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Otto Klemperer, and Eugen Jochum.
Tudor’s notes argue, as did Georg Tintner annotating his own performance for Naxos, that the later versions were not so much improvements as attenuations of a great masterpiece that is best heard and understood in its original form. Now that I have become thoroughly familiar with it, I can no longer argue against that view, though there is so much to admire in every version of Bruckner’s symphonies that I prefer to enjoy each on its own terms. It seems more worthwhile to argue against those who, for whatever reason, try to suppress marvelous scores like the Vienna version of the First Symphony, or the final version (1888) of the Fourth, both of which were revised and sent to the printer with the composer firmly in charge, however much help he had from his disciples.
An ethical case might be made against the publication (as recently as 1977, edited by Leopold Nowak) of this first version, because the composer never tried to have it performed or published. But every Bruckner enthusiast I know is grateful to hear these alternate versions, and conductors may now choose which version or versions they wish to perform. Similarly, serious collectors can choose which they wish to buy and keep.
Thanks to many recordings and concerts heard live or by radio, one can now accept the large number of allusions to the operas of Richard Wagner in the 1873 edition.
This was the version Wagner saw; Bruckner sought and received the great man’s permission to dedicate the symphony to him. This version is characterized by monumental length: 2,056 measures, compared to 1,715 in the 1877 version, and 1,544 in 1889. When performed with such skill and conviction, and recorded in such rich and burnished sound as in Tudor’s new release, one feels that more, indeed, is better.
FANFARE: Robert McColley
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 3 in D minor, WAB 103 by Anton Bruckner
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Written: Vienna, Austria
Notes: Composition written: Vienna, Austria (1872 - 1874).
Composition revised: Vienna, Austria (1876 - 1879).
Composition revised: Vienna, Austria (1887 - 1889).
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