Notes and Editorial Reviews
This performance succeeds in reconciling the dazzling ingenuity of the work with its immense emotional power.
Lovro von Matacic (1899–1985) conducted this performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on May 21, 1979. The Parisian orchestra responded with vigor and finesse to the conductor’s dramatic conception of this vast symphony. I cannot tell whether extra players joined in the triumphant coda to the last movement, but the brass section was then at its most brilliant and powerful, with no hint of fatigue.
Trained in Vienna and regularly employed in opera houses and concert halls for over 60 years, Matacic was thoroughly steeped in the central European musical tradition, and could
be depended on for formally coherent and emotionally intense performances of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies. Among those symphonies, the Fifth is especially distinctive. Among its many unusual features: extensive use of plucked strings, a slow introduction to the first movement, which is later recapitulated, yet another appearance of that introduction to begin the finale, a big fugue as first subject in the finale, a stately chorale concluding the long exposition of the finale, a fugue developed from the chorale theme, a joining of the finale’s first subject with the chorale-fugue to make a double fugue, a recapitulation, which eventually includes the main theme of the first movement, and a majestic coda dominated by a restatement of the chorale. Though one of Bruckner’s longest symphonies, the Fifth is also the easiest to follow. This performance succeeds, as did many led by Eugen Jochum, in reconciling the dazzling ingenuity of the work with its immense emotional power.
The audience is mostly inaudible until the end of the symphony, when it lets loose a torrent of appreciation. One flaw stands out near the beginning: the introduction has subsided, and we are about to hear the first subject when a single violinist plucks a string, hard. He must have turned one page too many! In the event, he added a note that some listeners may imagine Bruckner had intended.
As one would expect, Matacic performs the original version of the Fifth Symphony as Bruckner composed it from 1875 to 1878. Robert Haas edited and published this some 40 years after the composer’s death, and Leopold Nowak’s later edition is virtually identical. Unfortunately, Naïve does not state which edition is being used, and further invites confusion by stating, on the back cover, that the Symphony dates from 1894. That is the year Franz Schalk completed his abridged and partly rescored version of the work, which became the first published edition. Having cut 122 measures from the Finale, Schalk radically altered its magnificent form. I like Schalk’s edition, but no one should prefer it to Bruckner’s original. I hope no one passes over this splendid recording by supposing it offers the Schalk edition.
Robert McColley, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in B flat major, WAB 105 by Anton Bruckner
Patrice Fontanarosa (Violin)
Lovro von Matacic
National Orchestra d'Ile de France
Written: 1875-1876; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 05/21/1979
Venue: Live Champs-Elysées Theater, Paris, France
Length: 77 Minutes 7 Secs.
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