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Bruckner: Symphony No 3 / Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic

Bruckner / Royal Stockholm Po / Oramo
Release Date: 07/10/2012 
Label:  Exton   Catalog #: 5073   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 3 (1889 version, ed. Nowak) Sakari Oramo, cond; Royal Stockholm PO EXTON EXCL00073 (SACD: 55:36)

Sakari Oramo is one of the most gifted conductors performing today. He possesses a fine technique and a superb ear, and the latter is evident in the excellent balances and spot-on intonation of the present recording. Rarely has Bruckner sounded so drop-dead gorgeous. Oramo has conducted a splendid DVD including Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony and Einojuhani Read more Rautavaara’s Isle of Bliss , both mystical works that would indicate an affinity also for the spirituality of Bruckner. On the present CD, Oramo has chosen the final, 1889 version of Bruckner’s Third, as edited by Leopold Nowak. Of all the versions of this symphony—there are three, and a fourth of the adagio—this version is my favorite. I believe it is the most succinct in its musical form and has a greater dramatic effect than the others. I may be slightly swayed by the fact that this is the first version of the symphony I heard, on a DG LP by Eugen Jochum and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Oramo makes a marvelous case for the logic and beauty of this edition, giving us Bruckner that is lucid, comprehensive, and just plain lovely.

Oramo divides the first and second violins left and right, which makes for greater clarity. Sometimes I miss a darker, more German sound, but the purity of the orchestral tone here more than makes up for it. In the first movement, the tempo is steady and coherent, making much of the misterioso marking. The rich string sound is especially evident in the second subject. Organ sonorities are hinted at in this movement, but one is always aware from the delicate articulation that the piece is conceived as orchestral music. It has force and majesty like a human figure by Michelangelo. In the Adagio second movement, the quieter sections evoke the cloud cover of mountain tops, while agitated textures are realized through tone color and dynamics. This is different from Günter Wand’s approach, which is over a minute faster and goes to greater extremes of tempo. Oramo, on the other hand, maintains the spaciousness of the movement. The string tone in the second and third subjects is so natural it’s almost like breathing. The development features cosmic resonances. The portrayal of the natural world here has a Caspar David Friedrich immensity.

The scherzo is full bodied but not ponderous. There is elegant string phrasing in the rustic trio. Oramo’s final movement is a real Allegro, over a minute faster than Günter Wand. The second subject reminds me of an English country house on a Sunday afternoon—the tune could almost be by Eric Coates. As portrayed by Oramo, the contrasts in this movement have almost a surreal, Salvador Dali quality. The brass is especially elegant and cultivated, particularly in the return of the symphony’s opening theme in the coda. The CD’s sound engineering is very good, full and detailed if a little lacking in atmosphere. I was unable to listen to the SACD layer. Other recordings I like of this edition of the symphony are those by Günter Wand in Cologne, Johannes Wildner, and Roberto Paternostro. Wildner’s comes with a second CD that contains the second, 1877 version of the symphony and the 1876 Adagio with the same performers, the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia. All in all, I’m very happy with Sakari Oramo’s CD. It possesses beauty, character, and intellectual acuity. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a cycle of Bruckner symphonies from this conductor.

FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 in D minor, WAB 103 by Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Vienna, Austria 

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