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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gunter and Gilgamesh, 16 Jun 2012
This review is from: Anton Bruckner: Symphonie Nr. 4 (MP3 Download)
Listening to Bruckner could be likened to lying on your back and looking up at the constellations as they revolve around the axis of the earth. It may not be as viscerally exciting, say, as a visit to the House of the Rising Sun in downtown Bangkok but there is nothing to say that it should be boring. To that end, there is no substitute for imaginative phrasing in this domain.

No one doubts that Gunter Wand is a competent Brucknerian. When allied with the Berlin Philharmonic and an atmospheric recording, the output is always going to be listenable in the least - to wit, this performance of the Fourth Symphony (cobbled-together though it is from various performances). At times, the array rises to the occasion: the `Holy of Holies' chorale at the heart of the first movement and the coda of the finale are virtuosity incarnate. And yet so often, to my ears at least, the affair is militated by prosaic phrasing (just listen to the opening three minutes or so of the first movement).

But there is a deeper failure here: this symphony is Bruckner's most dangerous excursion into "the forests of the night." This performance, sad to say, but fitfully addresses the age-old dynamic of man versus nature. What the hell: it is time for a gratuitous quote to illustrate this point (and all the more so as it is more inspired than anything from yours truly). It was written at the dawn of civilisation:

. . . . . It was then that the lord Gilgamesh turned his thoughts to the Country of the Living; on the Land of Cedars the lord Gilgamesh reflected. He said to his servant Enkidu: "I have not established my name stamped on bricks as my destiny decreed; therefore I will go to the country where the cedar is felled. I will set up my name in the place where the names of famous men are written, and where no man's name is written yet I will raise a monument to the gods. Because of the evil that is in the land, we will journey into the great forest and destroy the evil; for in the forest lives Humbaba whose name is `Hugeness', a ferocious giant."

But Enkidu sighed bitterly and said, "When I lived with the wild beasts in the wilderness I discovered the forest; its length is ten thousand leagues in every direction. Enlil has appointed Humbaba to guard it and armed him with sevenfold terrors; terrible to all flesh is Humbaba. When he roars it is like the torrent of the storm, his breath is like fire and his jaws are death itself. He guards the cedars so well that when a wild heifer stirs in the forest, though she is sixty leagues distant, he hears her. What man would willingly walk into that country and explore its depths? I tell you, weakness overpowers whoever goes near it: it is not an equal struggle when one fights with Humbaba;. he is a great warrior, a battering-ram. Gilgamesh, the Watchman of the Forest never sleeps."

Gilgamesh replied: "Where is the man who can clamber to Heaven? Only the gods live forever with glorious Shamash, but as for us men, our days are numbered, our occupations are a breath of wind. How is it that you're afraid already! I will go first although I am your lord . . . Then if I fall I leave behind me a name that is everlasting; men will say of me, `Gilgamesh has fallen in battle with the ferocious Humbaba.'" . . . . .

This dimension is near-absent in this performance of the Fourth. It does not bespeak danger; the immensity of Nature and its indifference to our aspirations are likewise underplayed. It's a Bruckner Fourth that is commodious for an age that would rather forget the primordial roots of Homo Sapiens.

So by all means lap up the luxuriant orchestral response. With effort, convince yourself that the Kapellmeister on the podium - and a talented one at that - is a great conductor. And switch on the fluorescent lights as you listen on: they're a cheap and efficient way to dispel the darkness.

If, on the other hand you want to venture with Gilgamesh into the great forest, press either of these into service:

Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

Bruckner: Symphony No 4
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Apr 2013 17:41:43 BDT
Ag Mooney says:
What about Bruckner?.......Tony

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2013 22:55:23 BDT
Really? says:
It's all about wee little Bernie, don't you know.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2013 20:09:19 BDT
Poor Hal - always the broom head, never the handle!

Posted on 24 Oct 2013 14:51:35 BDT
ab says:
I agree Bernard - impressive but sterile.

Have you heard Tennstedt's LPO recording? Pan awakes, and marches into your living room.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Oct 2013 18:13:22 BDT
Ab - yes, I love that recording too. Have you heard his live performance with the Berliners on Testamenet? Best wishes, B

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Oct 2013 12:09:55 BDT
ab says:
No Bernard, only the EMI BPO which is not so good for me. Should I hear it?
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