on 18 October 2007
... who appreciates this performance as highly as I do? Well, when considering such wonderful performers/artists, in the end, it all comes down to taste, but I really love this performance. (Does that tell anything about how good or bad my tastes are? ;-)
Anyhow, this recording has had its fair share of bad reviews in press, being called 'tedious' and 'lacking in human dimension' because of being too much reduced to 'architectural denominators', or imbibed with too much 'Shatneresque(?) huffing and puffing'.
Be those observations as they may, I would like to say what I like about this performance. Generally, I am not a great fan of Sir Simon Rattle, but there are a few, IMHO, wonderful exceptions. But with these exceptions, there is a lot of devided opinion as well, as expected with this conductor, who never seems to fails to 'devide the field', as it were. I do for example love Sir Simon Rattle's recording of Mahler 10 with the Berliner Philharmoniker (EMI). (Although that one is generally accepted as 'classic', I would think.) I also like his recording (more of a risk, saying this), with the same orchestra, of Mahler's 9th - even if this performance, generally not well received by press and public alike, is characterized by a lot of idiosynchrasies (While being maybe a stand-alone in the field, it does have a uniquely convincing power of its own, I believe).
The orchestral playing is this Bruckner is to my taste (and here I think anyone could agree) mellifluous and glowingly rich in sound, from the softest pianissimos to the greatest fortissimos (probably much helped by the accoustics of the venue, the fabled Symphony Hall Birmingham). Indeed, as another (professional) reviewer has mentioned, there is a wonderful sense of architecture here, with flowing transitions between tempos. Many reviewers seem to miss a 'human side' with this performance. The same as with, for example, Sir Simon Rattle's Mahler 8, which indeed I don't like? (Characterized as it is by lightness of touch and emphasis on flow and 'architecture', missing out on deeper feeling. Well, at least to my taste and ideas) But I think that 'lack' is compensated by glorious sound and nobility of playing. Also, I think that the well-balanced strings (high and low), brass and woodwind make for a wonderful, richly blended sonorous sound: nowhere is the sound 'top heavy' in one department or another. But at the same time Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra find a lyrical touch that is to me very endearing, very fresh.
In one sentence, there is rich sonority combined with lyrical touch and fine orchestral balance. I, for one, love it. That, of course, tells everything about my own tastes, and nothing about what other people should think about this recording. But please try and give it a taste, maybe you would like it as well. I could only in good conscience recommend it wholeheartedly. (Actually, five stars for this performance, I guess.)