SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major – Aachen Symphony Orchestra/Marcus Bosch – Coviello Classics
Published on October 31, 2007
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) in his Symphony No. 5 resorted to the so-called cyclic form which attempts to bind the different parts of the entire work by unifying thematic materials using a motto and other primal themes which are then musically metamorphosed as the work progresses. In this symphony there a number of motto and primal themes which are developed into some of the most sophisticated symphonic counterpoint forms in the literature by way of simple and double fugues that at one point or another lead into full-blown chorales and reverberant sonic explosions.
As expected, musical logic is needed to unify the ever developing metamorphosed themes and Bruckner’s conundrum is that he still has to score the music following formal homophonic melodic and chordal principles, and here is where he excels as the music theorist he really was. In practice he seems to implement thus his alter ego, that is, his virtuosic organ playing (he was also a pipe organ virtuoso) which also included virtuosic improvisation skills. He scored this symphony mostly in musical groups and sometimes perhaps there are some occasional lapses in logical continuity, but that also could be a logical consequence of his formal theoretical style.
Some notable passages in this recording that document this style can be found at the beginning of the fourth movement where a simple fugue becomes a double fugue (track 4 – 4:27). Both in the simple and in the double fugue Bruckner resorts to primal themes already encountered in the first, second and third movements. The double fugue subsequently metamorphoses into a sonorous brass choral (at 7:02) which is accompanied in a formal chordal fashion by the string choir and the woodwinds. After that (at 8:35) the music leaves its adagio format and moves into an allegro moderato finally without any noticeable breaks logical continuity. The ground color is given by the brass section which is the leading and most important instrumental group in this symphony, although the presence of the cellos at the beginning of the second movement adagio is absolutely beguiling and sensuous.
This live recording is close – very close, presumably to eliminate the expected long reverberation times of the church (St. Nikolaus, Aachen) where this work was performed. Indeed, we do not hear the expected echoes effect normally associated with church recordings. Consequently, instrumental placement is excellent and almost from the beginning we can begin to clearly identify instrumental groupings’ location. The string choir seating is clearly as follows: from left to right, violins 1, cellos, violas, double bass and violins 2 (please listen to track 1 beginning at 2:00). I should add that real sound is present in all five speakers with an almost ethereal quality especially when the brasses are involved. This is a 3/2 multi-channel recording with no subwoofer effects.
As a final note, this is definitely music for all those who love brass in their symphonies, with their pipe organ-like sonic explosions. We could also say by now that Bruckner could not write an allegro even if his life depended on it. His music is in the realm of the mystical and may for some, me included, deliver pure ecstasy with its solemnity.
— John Nemaric