Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
on 11 August 2013
Franz Welser-Möst and his Clevelanders are arguably the most outstanding Bruckner interpreters today. Their Fourth, captured live under the direction of Brian Large in brilliant video and excellent audio, in the Stiftsbasilika St. Florian on 1 September 2012, is not only a perfect new installment in their recordings of the Bruckner symphonies but a small sensation in itself. Welser-Möst, most likely today's foremost Bruckner authority, uses the version of 1888, published by the American musicologist Benjamin Korstvedt in 2004 - first recorded on CD by Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra in 2010 in a very fine reading - thus setting a clear precedent on DVD for future performances. And the Korstvedt edition holds quite a few surprises for those of us who grew up with Haas and Novak. There are never-before-heard figurations in the woodwinds, violas and celli, significant nuances in the brass parts, smaller changes from the 1880/81 version in the first and second movements, a substantial - not unwelcome - cut in the Scherzo and, most obvious, a restored cymbal crash (expunged by Haas and Novak, still retained in the 1960s by some conductors like Jochum, Karajan and Steinberg) in the finale's reprise of the main theme. The cymbal crash (as well as the two following brushes) is not only quite effective but also a perfect climax in the symphony's texture, not unlike the Seventh's slow movement.
St. Florian has a long reverberation which the recording engineers nicely tamed: a remarkable feat. In the first few minutes a very slight harshness in the upper register can be heard until it disappears for the remainder of the performance. The Cleveland musicians are wonderful: every note is not only given its due value, but it is played and sculpted lovingly and idiomatically. Solos are superb and the ensemble could not be better. Tempi are, in my opinion, ideal. The first movement is assertive and full of unresolved tensions, the Andante quasi allegretto sustained by "romantic" longing and nostalgia, the Scherzo incisive with plenty of sharp edges, but elegant as well, the Finale a grandiose resolution in every respect. Welser-Möst is one of the few conductors who are fully aware of Bruckner's proto-modernist elements - often particularly audible as a "subtext" in the secondary voices - and he highlights them. This is a great Fourth that will stand the test of time and captivate you anew every time. Enough said, I want to listen to it again...