This review compares the Tintner Naxos recording against a recording by Salonen on Sony. Bear with me a moment as I start this comparison with a gripe about the cover art on the Sony CD, which features glamorous closeups of Salonen, some of which show him either trying to look angelic and profound or else trying to look like opera/pop superstar Andrea Bocelli, who at least has an excuse for posing with closed eyes (Mr. Bocelli is blind). The Naxos CD by comparison is a model of taste and functionality (it is much easier to tell at a glance what the heck you are looking at when you come across this one in the CD rack, that's for sure).
I did not purchase these two CDs at the same time. I first picked up the Salonen version, and when I listened to it the first few times, I thought it was nicely recorded, nicely played, but lacking something. It was rather boring, actually. I much preferred my old favorite Chailly/Concertgebouw recording on London.
When I finally picked up the Tintner, my first reaction was, "now, this is more like it." Tintner took the opening movement quite slowly, but he seemed to have everything thought out in such a way that the music always seemed fresh and exciting. The orchestra did not seem quite as polished as the LA Philharmonic, and the recording seemed not quite as refined, but the end result just seemed to be a better rendition of what I would suppose Bruckner's musical intentions to be.
Just for fun, I decided to do my final comparison of the two versions in a "blind" fashion. I stuck the two disks in two players and switched back and forth between them. On the piece of paper I had in front of me to write comments upon, I marked off columns for "A" and "B."
As I listened, I began to take notes. I noted that in recording A for example, the sound of the horns--in terms of both sound quality and musical phrasing--seemed much more rustic and atmospheric, while the bass in recording B seemed a bit firmer, and the overall sound quality seemed a bit more refined.
One of the fascinating puzzles growing out of this comparative process was that it was hard to decide about recording B whether the refined sound made the orchestra sound more refined, or whether it was rather the more refined sound of the orchestra that made the engineering seem more refined. Chew on that one for a while...
I also noted that the violins in recording A were spread across the stage, but in recording B they seemed relegated to the left side. I preferred the resulting sound of the old-fashioned arrangement of violins in A, which seemed to fill out the "sound picture" nicely.
Overall, recording A just seemed to offer a more vivid and more convincing musical interpretation of Bruckner. Although I thought recording B was a very good recording, I found myself more entertained and delighted by A, and it seemed to me that A presented a much more convincing Bruckner performance. Recording B was pleasant, but it wasn't quite Bruckner. It is recording A, then, that became my pick from this comparison.
Yes, I of course had realized after a minute or two of listening--not even that long, probably--that recording A had to be the Tintner recording, because of what I had heard of the two recordings before comparing them in this fashion. (I may have been blind for this comparison, but I was not deaf.) At about ten bucks less than the Sony disk, then, the Naxos is a genuine bargain, and I recommend it highly.