on 23 October 2013
Bruckner's 7th Symphony in E major dating from 1883 brought the composer belated success and has remained his most popular symphony. Its great qualities - its singing warmth and cogent structure - have stood the test of time. It is no surprise that it has attracted more recordings over many years than almost every other symphony. A new one appears almost every month! Its lack of any problems with alternative versions is also an important reason for its success, as is, of course, the use of Wagner tubas in the 2nd movement with the wonderful coda in memory of the "master". Karl Bohm had the full measure of its massive structures and there is an inevitable rightness about the conductor(he was Austrian) and the Vienna Philharmonic in this work. Jonathan Swain, in a comparison for the BBC some years ago, chose Bohm's performance as his preferred choice. Many conductors feature high in this comparison and many also have recorded it more than once. Bohm actually performed the work live in 1976 before this DG recording in 1977. His live performance is actually slightly quicker (64 mins) in comparison to the 66 mins of the DG recording. Any performance coming in at about 67 minutes is usually spot-on, but if you want Bruckner in the slow-lane go to Celibadache! The live performance of Karl Bohm was recorded by Austrian Radio ORF and appeared in a Volume produced by Andante - The Vienna Philharmonic 1954 - 1978 which also contains no.8 (Furtwangler - 1954. His last recording of this piece) and no.9 ( Karajan - 1978 which appeared in the Vienna Philharmonic Anniversary edition). If Bohm's DG recording (now on Galleria) is slighly more expansive than the live 1976 recording, it is still up there amongst the best, even though there are better recorded versions (as you would expect over the expanse of time). The Vienna Philharmonic are experts in this field and they just produce something rather special for this composer.
on 23 February 2016
Every pooch will have its day. Much the same could be said of Uncle Karl. He’s my baseline in Wagner. His Strauss is imperious and magisterial. At their best, his Mozart, Schubert and Haydn are superb. On the other hand, how anyone endures his marmoreal Beethoven, Brahms and the more leaden of his Mozart is beyond me. At such times, he’s deadlier than the proverbial Red-Back spider on the toilet seat of the outside dunny at night. Even Fonzi says that Böhm jumped the shark when he recorded Tchaikovsky 4 – 6 with the LSO late in life. As a general rule, I prefer him with the Berlin Phil rather than its Viennese counterpart; a lack of tension so often denotes his engagements with the latter – but not here.
Bohm was a Brucknerian of repute and dormition. I enjoy his pre-War B4 & B5 with the Dresden Staatskapelle even if his 1970 B3 & 1974 B4 send me to the Land of Nod (these are Minority Opinions). This performance of the Bruckner Seventh was recorded in September 1976. It’s meritorious. There’s too much going right here – patience, urgency and a sense of Otherness - for it to be anything less than a five star job. The tempo in the first movement is flawless – and the great moment therein (12’02”ff) where Bruckner sheds materiality to see . . . . Something is reason in itself to ring up my good friend Archimandrite Theo “the Sleeper” Krapopoulos and book a retreat at his Monastery of the Holy Foreskin. The self-contained episode before the coda, being ever so intense and spatial, brings Roethke to mind: “to what new vast permission have I come?” Listen to the tracery of first violins in the coda of the first movement: that’s expectancy; it predicates a master. Perhaps, one could argue, Uncle Karl lacks the volatility of Karajan ’75 in the Adagio but there’s not a lot in it. The joy and élan of the latter two movements are vivaciously conveyed. Who knows: perhaps the hint of a smile surfaced on that alabaster, dry-as-parchment face as this music unfolded.
The recording is clearly an analogue job. A remastering should freshen it up but that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. In the meantime, abet Uncle Karl in his celestial quest to see the One.
on 27 November 2008
This is a marriage of light and evidence. The Seventh is clearly Böhm's territory. If you search for clarity in phrasing, envolvement in the development of the symphony, a sense of architecture in the portraying of the harmonies, this is your recording. It's clear as water. There are, also, some other readings more desperate or revising, as Knappertsbusch, Klemperer, Abendroth, or, very differently, Furtwängler or Celibidache. But here a good Brucknerian has to start.
on 6 June 2009
Looking to expand my meager collection of classical music, this CD was recommended to me, and it's brilliant. I'm totally non-technical when it comes to classical music, I just know what I do and don't like and as far as Bruckner's concerned I love it. It's a fully rounded, very listenable symphony, with no discordant, crashing bits to jar the mood! Great piece of music to play while working on the computer as I find it very melodic and soothing.