SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

ANTON BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, WAB 105; Rehearsal of same – Vienna Philharmonic/Nikolaus Harnoncourt – RCA Red Seal SACD + CD

This may be the first recording using all the latest musicological findings and combining the Haas and Nowak editions; usually recordings have used just one or the other.

Published on January 21, 2009

ANTON BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, WAB 105; Rehearsal of same – Vienna Philharmonic/Nikolaus Harnoncourt – RCA Red Seal SACD + CD

ANTON BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, WAB 105; Rehearsal of same – Vienna Philharmonic/Nikolaus Harnoncourt – RCA Red Seal multichannel SACD + CD 82876 60749 2, 73:08; 74:49 *****:

This was a 2004 release but we seem to have just received it now. Fortunate, since the only SACDs of the Fifth are on various Japanese labels at premium prices for those in the U.S.  The Fifth is sometimes subtitled the “Tragic” Symphony, and it has also been referred to as the “Catholic” or “Gothic” Symphony.  The four-movement work is heard here in a combination of versions combining those of Haas and Nowak with a recently-published Viennese publication, The Complete Critical Edition of the Works of Anton Bruckner.  This may be the first recording using all the latest musicological findings and combining the Haas and Nowak editions; usually recordings have use just one or the other.

This is the only one of the composer’s nine symphonies to being with a slow introduction. Bruckner was going thru some especially difficult times during its composition but though it doesn’t show sturm und drang outwardly, it is one of his most thoroughly contrapuntal symphonies – becoming especially thick in the finale.  The two center movements are in D minor, with the Finale returning to the B-flat Major of the Introduction.

The notes are by one of the editors of the Vienna Complete Edition, and he makes the point that a stronger influence heard in this symphony than the usually-expected Wagnerian one is that of Mozart.  The Requiem idea was strong in Bruckner’s mind when he wrote this symphony, and he not only used a quote from Mozart’s Requiem in the Adagio, and also some material from his own settings of the Mass.  The performance is strong and uncompromising, as befits the score, and fidelity of the live multichannel recording is excellent.  The rehearsals, held on the first two days of the week during which the performances were taped for use in this release, are conducted in German, which might decrease the interest of some listeners in following Harnoncourt’s work with the orchestra. By the way, we earlier covered a similar SACD of Bruckner’s Ninth which makes a fine pairing with this release.

 - John Sunier




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