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Bruckner: Symphony No.4

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Product details

  • Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi
  • Composer: Bruckner
  • Audio CD (7 May 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Signum Classics
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 270,232 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Song TitleArtist Time Price
  1. Symphony No.4, Romantic: i. Bewegt, nicht zu schnellChristoph von Dohnányi, Philharmonia Orchestra17:41Album Only
  2. Symphony No.4, Romantic: ii. Andante quasi AllegrettoChristoph von Dohnányi, Philharmonia Orchestra15:12Album Only
  3. Symphony No.4, Romantic: iii. Scherzo (Bewegt)Christoph von Dohnányi, Philharmonia Orchestra10:58Album Only
  4. Symphony No.4, Romantic: iv. Finale (Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell)Christoph von Dohnányi, Philharmonia Orchestra20:24Album Only

Product Description

Continuing Signum s series of live orchestral releases with the Philharmonia Orchestra, on this new disc Christoph von Dohnányi leads a performance of Bruckner s Symphony No.4, 'Romantic'. Bruckner stands out from other 19th-century symphonists; his large-scale works demonstrate a unique fusion of conservative and radical elements, notably influenced by composers such as Wagner and Beethoven. He appended not only the title Romantic but even included a programme for the Fourth Symphony, sometime after composition. Though he later withdrew it, the scenario is a mediaeval Romantic ideal, where knights awaken to the sound of horns, rejoice and repair to prayer, before the inevitable hunt and ensuing festivities.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ken Ward on 15 May 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I reviewed this performance for The Bruckner Journal in a round-up of half a dozen London Bruckner performances in the 2008/2009 season, and wrote as follows:
"There's not much to be said about Dohnanyi and the Philharmonia's performance of the more familiar 1878/80 version of the 4th, other than that it was in another league, an absolutely first-class performance that shone like gold. The orchestra were on magnificent form, and even though the brass were complemented by an extra horn, an extra trumpet and an extra trombone above that which is called for in the score, the orchestral balance was in the event exemplary, and a joy to listen to. Nothing questionable or self-conscious here about the long line, or attention to detail: the performance took hold from the moment of its opening, did not let go through to the glorious all-embracing coda, and lives with me still at the time of writing, weeks after the event. It was the sort of performance that reminds you of what it is this music can do, and why you love Bruckner so much - and all the more welcome because my previous experience of performances conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi had not led me to expect something so inspired.
Colin Anderson on classicalsource dot com was also enthusiastic, "It was a magnificent performance, wonderfully assured and insightful, rarefied, powerful, suggestive and glowing, Dohnányi and the Philharmonia creating a magical, mysterious and awe-inspiring landscape that was alive to the music's range, intricacy and dance inflexions, episodes and impulses given full value while remaining part of the whole." Once again the concert-going public were not greatly in evidence - if only they knew what they were missing!
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Format: Audio CD
This is a recording of the Haas edition of the 1878/80 version, which was premiered by Richter in Vienna in 1881 (the composer went on to make some relatively minor changes to this version for the purposes of a performance in New York, in 1886, which Nowak published). The recording was made live in Royal Festival Hall, in October 2008, shortly after Dohnanyi had resigned the post of Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia (which he had held since 1997) and assumed the position of Honorary Conductor for Life.

Dohnanyi has a reputation in some circles for being a cold fish, albeit a highly accomplished one. A fairly recent recording of Brahms's Symphonies 2 & 4, also on the Signum label, struck me as a tad dull (partly a question of the flatish sound) and, certainly in the case of the 4th, not as appealing as his earlier recording with the Cleveland Orchestra. The present performance is anything but cold or dull. While clear-eyed as expected, it also has great energy and drama.

In relation to the commencement of this Symphony, the essayist, Michael Steinberg, wrote that "ideally you do not hear the music begin; rather, you become aware that it has begun." Dohnanyi is clearly of the same mind, and his is one of the few recordings I've heard where this sensation is manifest. Against this softly, softly backdrop, the horn announces its call in a direct and forthright fashion, somewhat different from the broad, moulded approach of the hornist in Haitink's 2011 recording on LSO Live. A keynote of Dohnanyi's first movement is impetus (total time is 17'42), though there is no sense of rushing and the conductor is alive to those moments of stillness and wonderment, such as the episode immediately following the chorale (from 10'20). Another keynote is clarity.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
THIS, for me at least, is a long-awaited release. Part of a concert I attended on 30 October 2008 at the Festival Hall, I came away with the feeling that I had heard something very special indeed. The first half of the programme was the Sinfonia Concertante K364 of Mozart with Benjamin Schmid (violin) and Rachel Roberts (viola). Regrettably, even the inclusion of this wonderful evergreen didn't encourage a full attendance - perhaps people had other things on their minds, like queuing to get their money out of the bank as the world's financial system teetered on the brink of collapse - but in this concert those who turned up could forget all about that and were treated to a magical Fourth that transported you on a journey of delights. Indeed in The Bruckner Journal concert review (Vol. 13, no. 2, July 2009, p.6) it was remarked that this performance shone like gold, gripping you from the start and never letting go.

I was in the choir behind the horns. Frankly for 64 minutes I sat mesmerized, the Philharmonia at its utmost peak, Christoph von Dohnanyi, newly appointed Honorary Conductor for Life, raising his game to a new and unexpected high. This was no fluke however, later in December 2009 he conducted the same programme with the New York Philharmonic and that was wonderful too. What however really marks out this performance was the playing of the horns, in my view unparalleled in its exquisite beauty, playing of astonishing quality, delicate and precise in the quieter passages but thrillingly raucous when demanded.

So the issue here is, have the sound engineers captured this in the recording? Yes - is the answer, in my collection this disc now sits proudly next to Bruno Walter's 1960 Columbia miracle. However I do have a couple of niggles.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
**** 1/2 A superb, elegantly played Fourth, just shy of greatness 21 Sept. 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The fact that the word "greatness" even appears in my headline signals that Dohnanyi's literal, rather constricted Bruckner from Cleveland on Decca has changed. It's only a matter of degree, but between 1989, when he first recorded the Fourth, and this live concert reading from 2008, Dohnanyi seems to have warmed a few cockles. The sense of efficiency remains but doesn't smother the feeling.

The lead reviewer has described the unfolding of each movement very accurately, so far as I can hear. Karajan, following in Furtwangler's footsteps (probably not consciously, given their rivalry), broadened the first movement considerably; Under Simon Rattle the Berliners still play this movement close to Karajan's 20 min., which Dohnanyi shortens to 17:41, giving a sense of forward motion without rushing, as the lead reviewer notes. Unless you are a profound interpreter, there's no use being slow. The advantage that Rattle and Karajan have comes form the stupendous, world-conquering sonority of the Berlin Phil., which no other ensemble can match. Karl bohm was also slow from Vienna on his famed Decca recording, but I am not a fan - there's slow and then there's plodding.

Such comparisons are really aimed only at collectors. It's fascinating to hear various great conductors as they offer different insights, but on the face of it modern orchestra play Bruckner with power and finesse. His idiom has long ago been mastered by accomplished conductors. Dohnanyi adds a measure of accomplishment that befits his senior status on the international scene, without suddenly opening new vistas. The slow movement, for example, is lovely without being unusually moving. The hunting-horn Scherzo features impecable brass playing, if a bit rackety at times. The finale begins blandly, lacking a sense of mystery, but there's no denying how expertly Dohnanyi manages the buildup to climaxes, and the same expertness holds the disjointed structure together, largely through urgent pacing and strong, exciting attacks. This movement, in fact, feels the most impressive to me, given the hurdles that are so easily overcome.

There are excellent Bruckner fourths in very good sound - Rattle's EMI account stands out, along with Harnoncourt's on Warner - or somewhat iffy sound - both of Karajan's on EMI and DG. As much as I love Bruno Walter's Bruckner, his Fourth with the Columbia Sy. is choppy and rough, besides having cramped sonics. Furtwangler's sound is quite poor; Klemperer on EMI is goodish and his reading very much worth knowing. Abbado strikes me as polished and dull; Wand's various readings appeal to his fan base but are not deep interpretations to my ears. Neither is Dohnanyi's, but everything proceeds so well that respect must be granted.
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