12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (1877 and 1889 versions), New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia, Johannes Wildner
Bruckner fans are well aware of the "Bruckner problem," namely that Symphonies 1-4 and 8 underwent several revisions, either by Bruckner himself or by various well-meaning editors. It used to be thought that Bruckner's students Schalk and Lowe exercised undue influence on these revisions, trying to make the symphonies more "listener-friendly" for a Viennese audience, but recent studies show that Bruckner had more of a hand in these revisions himself and that he didn't hesitate to reject changes that he didn't approve of.
The Third Symphony underwent two major revisions and some additional less significant ones after being composed in 1873. The 1877 version was clearly made by Bruckner himself and (with the exception of the coda to the scherzo added in January 1878) is the version first performed by the Vienna Philharmonic with Bruckner conducting. Unfortunately, the orchestra was under-rehearsed and hostile to Bruckner, and the performance was pretty much a disaster. But a young Mahler was in the audience and was greatly impressed, so much so that he got the score and arranged it for piano duo. The 1877 version is somewhat shorter than the original 1873 version and leaves out quotes from Wagner's operas that were in the original. (The symphony was dedicated to Wagner.)
The symphony underwent another major revision in 1889, prior to its first publication in 1990. The symphony was further shortened, with important changes to the finale, and the orchestration was revised considerably, such as making the brass parts less prominent. It's believed that Schalk had a hand in this revision, but to what extent is unknown. Bruckner was of course anxious to get his symphonies performed and was aware that Viennese audiences thought his symphonies were too long and departed too much from the classical ideal. The end result may have been compromises he was willing to make in order to increase chances of performance.
This 2 CD album issued by Naxos features both the 1877 version (with the scherzo coda) and the 1889 version. Also included is an intermediate 1876 revision of the second (adagio) movement that underwent further revision in 1877. It's interesting to compare these versions to see how the symphony evolved. Both versions are performed by orchestras today, but many prefer the 1877 version as being closer to what Bruckner really intended as opposed to what he thought would more likely be performed. (The original 1873 version was recorded by Georg Tintner and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, available on the Naxos label.)
On these recordings, the 1877 version is almost 10 minutes longer than the 1889 version. That's partly the result of the Westphalian orchestra taking slightly faster tempos in performing the 1889 version, but mostly it represents substantial cuts to the 1877 version. The first movement is over 3 minutes shorter, with cuts mainly in the development and the coda but leaving the overall structure unchanged. The 1876 version of the adagio is in ABABA form, but the middle A section was cut in 1877, resulting in an ABA form with a long and repetitious B section. In 1889, the B section was reduced to eliminate some of the repetition. The only changes to the scherzo were the elimination of the coda and the addition of a few bars.
The finale underwent the greatest amount of change. The 1877 version is in a sort of sonata-rondo form: ABCAXABC-coda, where X is a development section and the coda is based on A and the first theme of the first movement, but the 1889 version shortens X, cuts out the A that follows it (thus resembling the finale of Brahms' First), drops most of the second C, and largely recomposes and shortens the coda. The A theme, a bold statement in the brass, is impressive!
The New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia under the direction of Johannes Wildner acquits itself well in these two performances plus the 1876 adagio. The sound quality is excellent to my ears; the brass entries in particular stand out, especially in the 1877 version. To me, it seems that the 1877 version was recorded at a slightly higher dynamic level than the 1889 version. I haven't listened carefully to recordings by other orchestras, so I can't make comparisons, but I think the Westphalians do an excellent job overall. The program notes in the album are interesting but could have given more information about the differences between these versions. As usual with Naxos, this 2 CD album is available at a bargain price.
One can put together a personal "ideal" version from these recordings. My own choices would be: first movement-1889 (tighter, more dramatic development), second movement-1876 (I prefer the earlier five-part concept), third movement-1889 (the "coda" adds nothing worthwhile), last movement-1877 (closer to Bruckner's original thoughts, though one could argue for the more compact 1889 version).
A final thought: on first hearing this symphony, I kept thinking about its resemblance in many ways to the later Eighth Symphony, especially the first movement. It seems to come from the same sound world as that symphony. The Schubertian influence that is quite noticeable in the Second Symphony is largely absent here.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Phillip C. Webb
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For those who like to listen to how a composer re composes a single work. This is interesting to compare the 2nd and 3rd versions of this symphony. Each version beyond the first reduces themes and makes the music more compact. I don't always agree with this. The first is superior as it is Bruckner's initial thoughts on the work and is perfect just the way it was first conceived. Recording is excellent. Wildner is great and his orchestra plays very well. If you are into Bruckner, this is a must.