The air shimmers and glows, and somewhere in the mists, a solitary horn gives a lonely call. The stuff of fairytales? The truth is, it’s impossible to write about Bruckner’s majestic Fourth Symphony without letting the imagination soar; he never wrote anything more colorful, or more poetic. In Germany, they call it the ‘Romantic’ symphony, and it’s easy to hear why.
Sir Simon Rattle loves Bruckner’s Fourth, and on this new recording from LSO Live, he conducts the work in all its splendor: music that never gets any less stirring, and has never sounded so fresh. He is aware, too, that Bruckner’s inspiration burned so brightly that he ended up with more ideas than he could actually use. “There is much wonderful music which remains almost entirely unplayed” he says. On this album he steps inside Bruckner’s workshop, bringing to light some of the music that didn’t make the final cut.
This edition of the symphony and its discarded Scherzo and Finale by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs was published in 2021. The world premiere performance with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO is a must-listen for lovers of Bruckner’s music, and gives us a glimpse into the composer’s untold musical thoughts.
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle – Conductor
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 02:06:37
|Original Recording Format
Recorded Live at Jerwood Hall at LSO St Luke's, London on October 5, 2021
|September 16, 2022
Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestras here embark (Recorded Live on October 5, 2021) on an ambitious project. To realize the second version of Anton Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony (1874) as it stood by the end of 1881. In the wake of its alternative, autograph editions and yet to provide performance alternatives based on reconstructions of Bruckner’s extensive revisions of the work from 1878-1881. Rattle respects, for the first time, the composer’s suggested cuts in the Finale. Bruckner’s changes were originally incorporated into the copy which served as a conducting score. These were then correlated with the parts by the copyists involved, and by them, and not Bruckner himself, transferred back into the autograph score.
The LSO violas elicit a song from Nature, with long, serene phrases through pizzicato, fellow strings. The moments of pantheistic stillness, marked by birdcalls, have something of Wagner’s Forest Murmurs, building to a huge climax, itself quickly fading into the mournful phrases shared by horn, viola, and clarinet.
The Scherzo movement always provides a thrill: its clear, hunting motif again invokes one of Wagner’s celestial gallops across mythic skies. The contrasting Trio, in laendler style, retreats to the comforts of the Austrian countryside, allowing the LSO oboe and clarinet their moment in the sun.
The sonic image for the LSO remains glorious, the low strings, winds, and brass in perfectly clear resonance. The Finale here is the unabridged version of 1881, lasting almost three minutes longer in performance than Rattle’s traversal of the 1881 abridged text. Melodic and dramatic continuity notwithstanding, it becomes more obvious in the various pauses, emotional eruptions, and intimate digressions, why Brahms referred to Bruckner as the creator of boa constrictors in music. Yet, Rattle and LSO deliver these alternate versions in the spirit of loving exploration, and as such, the set warrants our admiration.
Bruckner was perhaps never exceeded in his tendency to revise his works and even tinker with them after they had appeared, and it is not uncommon to find recordings of his symphonies that include an alternate movement or two. However, conductor Simon Rattle outdoes previous similar explorations. The Symphony No. 4 in E flat major (“Romantic”), although relatively stable and compact in its final version, was no exception.
Bruckner discarded two entire movements and radically altered two others. Here, Rattle offers the whole group of movements in performances recorded live in October 2021. The full symphony is performed in a new edition by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (referred to, with needless complexity, as “Cohrs A04B”); that and the two discarded movements receive their world recorded premieres.
Rattle refers to the concert as a trip through Bruckner’s workshop, and that’s an appealing way of putting it. In concert, Rattle took a chronological approach, performing the earlier and discarded versions first and then ending with the complete symphony. That may have been preferable to what’s heard here, with the extras on a second album. Although, of course, the listener is free to program the tracks in any order.
Sample the earlier version of the finale at the end of the second album, almost three minutes longer and much gnarlier than what Bruckner eventually went with. Bruckner’s second thoughts weren’t always better than his first, but they were in this case.
As for Rattle as a Brucknerian, he’s very fine. The symphony has a majestic sweep. All those years in Berlin apparently imprinted some Germanic traditions on him. At any rate, any perfect Brucknerian will want to hear this.
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