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4.0 out of 5 stars
9
4.0 out of 5 stars
Bruckner: Symphony 4 (DECCA The Originals)
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 26 April 2017
I had treasured this recording since it first reappeared on CD nearly 30 years ago. Böhm adopts expansive tempi, giving the music lots of room to breathe, and he handles transitional passages with skill. The VPO produces magnificent sonorities, the 1973 recording still sounds good, and climaxes are impressively powerful. It's a BIG reading of the symphony.

But coming back to the recording in 2017, after a long interval without hearing it, I find I am deeply disappointed. There is something very important missing. Böhm's interpretation is cool, too literal, too plain. There is no fantasy, no imagination, no atmosphere, no rapture. It's all terribly earthbound, over-literal and uninspiring. There is SO much more to find in this music.

Instead I recommend two outstanding recordings: Jochum with the Berlin Philharmonic on DG, and Wand's CD with the same orchestra on RCA Red Seal. Both these recordings capture all the magnificence and rapture of the music.
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on 19 July 2015
This is a great symphony, and I wouldn't be without my many recordings of it, but this one, from 1973, wins the engineering award. In none of the others am I made so aware of the different brass textures in the loudest moments -- and yet, although they're not "homogenized," there's no sense that the sound-picture is just a variety of noises: the ear apprehends it as a complex texture that creates a unity of impression for all its variety. All of that wouldn't matter if the reading were dull or plodding, but it's not. Bohm, close to 80 when this was recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic, has the rhythmic underpinning secure, so the sense of forward motion, for all the weight and texture, is never lost. It really is a beautiful piece of work. Jochum with Dresden and Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic recorded accounts in 1975, and they have their strong points Both have first movements that are a couple of minutes faster than Bohm's; Karajan has weight and propulsion, though the loud sound is a little muddier than Bohm's, and I hear the recording of the percussion at times contributing to that muddying, but it's still an exciting reading. Jochum is propulsive too, but his brass is set back just a bit in the overall picture and isn't quite so immediately present. On the other hand, Jochum's phrasing of the slower passages throughout has a tenderness like no other. Abbado in 1991 and Haitink in 1965 blend elegance and weight beautifully, even if their recordings lack the sheer presence of Bohm's Decca sound, though Haitink's recording, from the Concertgebouw, is amazingly good for its age. You really need them all -- and that means you really need Bohm's. Just a great recording.
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on 29 August 2007
A recent well-known British music magazine sought to expose 50 "unknown" recordings. Its discoveries included the Eugene Ormandy-Philadelphia Orchestra rendition of the Bruckner Symphony No. 4, subtitled "Romantic", among its hidden gems. It is available on a low-priced Sony disk. In his note, the critic included a not too veiled criticism of this recording, saying the Ormandy showed off all the instruments while this one homogenized the affair.

While it was nice to learn someone in England appreciates Ormandy, I can't agree with that assessment, principally because most people that love and understand Bruckner -- including me -- have graded the Bohm-Vienna Philharmonic recording as one of the best Bruckner 4ths in history. This recording has been considered de rigeur for more than 30 years and its new packaging, low price and upgraded sound all enhance that reputation.

The accoldaes bestowed on this rendition have traversed both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In its most recent Bruckner overview, American Record Guide graded Bohm No. 1 in both Symphonies 3 & 4, noting his "unforced naturalness". Gramophone magazine has recommended this recording above all other Bruckner 4s since its 1973 release. This recording continues to be the most Viennese sounding Bruckner "Romantic" symphony available allied with an unerring sense of inevitability that makes it an all-encompassing Bruckner experience.

In England you can buy this as part a two-CD set mated with Bohm's even more outstanding version of Bruckner's Symphony 3, which is sometimes called his "Wagner" symphony because of its use of repeated themes in the brass. I wouldn't want to be without this two-CD set at my house. If you love Bruckner, you shouldn't either. Even if you don't love Bruckner, you shouldn't be without this recording.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2007
Sometimes everything just clicks. It all goes right on the night. All the careful preparation is realised in performance. The conductor's private vision is perfectly transmitted to and by the orchestra before him. The soloists' most felicitous phrases gel ideally with the conductor's large-scale interpretation of the work.

This was just such a performance - or rather a set of recording sessions. Bohm was certainly well versed in the Bruckner canon, but he was not one of those `core' Bruckner conductors like Jochum and Wand or even Furtwangler and Knappertsbusch. Recordings also exist of him conducting Symphonies 3, 5, 7 and 8 as well as other readings of the Fourth, but none of them are really in the class of this performance, fully worthy of Decca's `Legend' moniker emblazoned on the jewel case. Perhaps it's better not to speculate about why it all worked so well at those sessions, but just to rejoice that it did and relish the results.

`Romantic' was Bruckner's own soubriquet for his Fourth. It certainly stands apart from most of the rest of the canon in its freshness, its sense of the Austrian countryside and indeed of Austrianness in general. It doesn't seek to explore the construction and structure of a symphony in the way the 5th or the 8th do, nor to plumb the spiritual depths of the 8th or 9th. Bruckner's programmatic descriptions for his Fourth conjure up a medieval world of forests, birdsong, hunting expeditions and knightly derring-do. That's not to say it is not constructed with much thought through seven years of the usual Brucknerian overhauls, including three different Finales. Its form is certainly a lot more tightly organised than its predecessor, the Wagnerian 3rd. But its character is, perhaps, more simply approachable than the other symphonies.

For this recording, Bohm was at the head of the greatest Austrian orchestra - at the time, arguably the world's greatest orchestra - the Vienna Philharmonic. And the rapport between them seems almost tangible. Certainly their distinctive sound with its rich string tone, its unique French Horns and full brass sound suits this music to a T. One always seems to sense Bruckner, the organist, behind the tiered orchestration he employs, often using the different sections - strings, woodwind, brass - to produce separately coloured blocks of sound layered on top of each other. The Vienna Philharmonic of 1973 seem the perfect instrument to realise this sound. That horn sound is glorious thoughout and the woodwind playing here is exceptional, too.

As to Bohm's interpretation, he really understands the Austrian heart of this music. His tempi are relaxed but never sluggish. Bruckner felt it necessary to qualify the tempo markings in every movement - the first's allegro is nicht zu schnell (not too fast): so is the Finale's: the slow movement is Andante, but quasi allegretto: and the Scherzo's Trio is marked nicht zu schnell again. Bohm observes all this, allowing the music room to breathe while always sustaining momentum. The pacing and placing of Bruckner's huge climaxes is always spot-on. And he fully understands exactly where the highest point of each movement should be - he doesn't play all his cards too early: the climaxes are `scaled' to retain a meaningful shape to each movement and to the whole symphony.

This is definitely a disc that merits the title Legendary. And at a bargain price. What more encouragement should you need?
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on 24 October 2012
I have spent much time listening to Bruckners complete range of symphonies by Eugen Jochum / Staatskapelle Dresden , and find the performances outstanding . However , in my opinion , this version of Symphony No 4 by VPO / Bruckner is the best I have heard .
There is that intangible "rightness" about the performance that really hits the mark .
One of my most listened to discs , never tire of it.
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on 23 September 2013
I owned this many years ago in cassette form. Even with the limitations of the cassette medium the sound quality was stunning as was the performance which had this complete feel of "rightness". Over the years I have owned and heard other performances but they never seemed to feel completely right. I finally managed to get a CD issue of this one and wondered if it would live up to my memories of it. Oh yes, in spades, It has again "blown me away" with the terrific ADD Decca sound and Bohm's unsurpassed performance with the magnificent Vienna Phil. Don't hesitate get a copy asap. Bliss in CD form
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on 28 September 2013
For many an edition, the Penguin Guide - rightly in my opinion - dismissed this recording as being earthbound. His merits notwithstanding, Karl Bohm is hardly a byword for incandescence. Of late however, it has risen dramatically in their rankings. This ascent is attributable to relentless PR campaign by Richard Osborne (of Gramophon fame) which prompted either a re-examination on their part or a capitulation. I wish they had stuck with their earlier appraisal.

This is a competent performance that is devoid of ecstasy. It would be unfair to say that Bohm is kapellmeister-ish here but he ain't far off it. Perhaps if Uncle Karl had had the Berlin Philharmonic at his disposal - arsonists in everything but name - that would have imparted some 'holy madness' to proceedings. Encounters with the Numinous are not meant to be predictable, dour affairs.

Here, no Pantocrator awaits in the peroration of the finale.

If you are seeking escape-velocity from 'the passing spectacle of material things', Karajan (EMI or DG) can provide the necessary thrust and more Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 &Bruckner: 9 Symphonies [Box Set]. Furtwangler's sole-surviving performance will also get you off this rock and away Furtwängler Conducts Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9.

Here, there is no need to fasten your seatbelt.
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on 4 February 2009
I've owned this particular recording of probably Bruckner's most famous symphony now for several years.
After doing the rounds and listening to many different performances of the 4th, I still invariably return to this one.
It dates from 1973 so it is in analogue, but the quality of it suggests digital; no problems in that department.
What keeps me from giving five stars is this; The VPO of 1960's and 1970's had a rather thin, reedy sound to the oboe section. Which, quite often is inaudible when the other sections are playing. And it's very apparent in this particular recording! If you can handle that then this is a very good account of the symphony. Spacious, broad and well played.
A very good CD for the Bruckner beginner!...
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on 14 November 2008
This is a very good recording: the sound is one of the best I know, a result of the 70s Decca efforts (even today they're impossible to match in clarity and strength).
Böhm is an eminent Brucknerian: his 7th (Audite and DG) are milestones, and he delivered a very authoritarian 8th. However, this is the only evidence of this recording: everything is clear, stressed, tuned. It's a clean reading, underlined in the essential. You can feel overwealmed by Bruckner's cathedrals of sound, that Böhm can build. This performance is a close and efficient reading, but it is not an interpretation in the sense it can give you a personal and dinamically new approach.
But if you want to be bewitched by the iniciatic journey that this Symphony suggests; if you want to be submerged by this river of Austrian melodies, converging to a center powerfully bursting of energy, this is not your recording. Try Klemperer (Medici), Furtwängler (Music and Arts), Jochum (DG) or Celibidache (EMI). And leave Böhm to the 7th.
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