Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bruckner, Anton. (1824-1896) Symphony No. 5 in B flat major. (Version of 1878) Top recommendation.



Anton Bruckner.

New acquisition.
Date of purchase: June 2017.
First listen: 12-7-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 6 of 11.
Recording dates: March 2014.
Recording venue: Tapiola Hall, Kulttuurikeskus, Espoo, Finland.
Recording engineer: Jacob Händel.
Running time: 60:00.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Reference performance.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Tapiola Sinfonietta., Mario Venzago.

We were all used to big boned interpretations of Bruckner's symphonies. Little did we know about how to perform his music, so most of the conductors paved a way for themselves, by doubling up the strings and brass sections to almost absurd proportions. Implementing as much rubato as was possible, creating long legato lines to get this warm romantic sound that was so much associated with Bruckner's music. Adding dynamics at places at random, lowering the tempo of the adagio's to absurdity, all in order to create this lush wall of sound, in which neither detail was heard or the connecting lines between all instruments.
Well, with the fifth of this set most will enter into shock, for Venzago interpretation is as far removed from that way of playing as could be possible. A major turnaround in all directions. This is not the Bruckner of old, but a new and very accessible composer.
The Adagio's are played at a brisk tempo, the Allegro's go much faster, and moderato is much less in order as with any other interpretation I heard, and those are legion. So if you expect the second movement to be Adagio-Sehr langsam, think again. The whole symphony clocks in at 58:58 to be precise, and that is fast, but is it too fast. Well that depends. The size of the Tapiola Sinfonietta is not expansive, and yet they produce enough volume to lure you into thinking it is. But the greatest compliment is due to the fact that you hear a myriad of details you never heard before, and in that context the tempi are perfectly sensible and do not feel rushed. No matter how high the crescendos go, you never lose sight of what is going on, all melody lines stay clear as a bell, the internal balance is amazing, but the clarity in this fifth is beyond believe. Undone of all the false sentimentality, the spirituality that comes up, is much more of the type of what Bruckner knew and intended. This is actually a performance he would recognize, apart from the steel strings used. But by avoiding as much vibrato as possible, and keeping dynamics as tight as a shoestring, the impression you get is what you might expect from gut strings. And that again is a huge compliment to achieve such a thing. I am convinced this is how we should conceive Bruckner, as a composer and as a deeply spiritual human being. I for one am convinced of Venzago's thinking.
The performance is utterly convincing, and the recording offers all to appreciate the music at the highest level possible. The Tapiola acoustics is a tad hard on the ears concerning the brass, but that is easily overcome by turning the volume a bit lower.
Recommended. 


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