Top positive review
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a necessary Bruckner Fourth -- but not the only one
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.