The only problem of this midated 7th (it was in fact taped in 1943, not 1948) is that it has to face severely tough competition all round. This performance is very solid, very musical, and the conductor and his orchestra take a lot of risks in the slow movement, one of the slowest on record. The impression is one of poetry and lyricism (and not utter desolation as I have read elsewhere) but I must say that in this slow movement alone, Fürtwangler in 1942 (re-issued by Pristine Classical with Furt's incomplete 6th) is simply unbeatable by its architecture and its emotional content. A very good seventh for the time but I prefer Fried 1924, for listeners looking for quality historical performances. For the slow movement alone, the Furtwängler 1942 recording is a must-have.
Tempo markings! Tempi? Yes what ARE the tempo markings? Did Bruckner note them? Why is Ivan Fischer's wonderful interpretation of this Symphony so utterly wrong? Tempi?? Get a life people! And I mean that. The overriding mood of this Symphony is undeniably one of hope and aspiration! Speed aside, look at the form, harmony, cadences, structure.. in every respect this work demands clean precision, freshness, urgency. Those semi quavers in the strings in the climax of the adagio rise. They rise.. for a reason. Life. Hope. Longing. Listen to end of the movement with the repeated major cadence which the horns call out like an Alpine morning..! I think every movement of this symphony climaxes on the rise. Ascending sequences in the major key. It is a symphony of life, not death, and deserves the pace and clarity that Fischer gives us..! Brilliant!
A new recording from the marvellous team of Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra is a cause for celebration but, alas, I fear that this time the bunting may be of more mundane stripe. In a nutshell, what I fear this recording lacks is gravitas. There's little feeling of the music representing something unshakeable and not quite of this world.
The monumental adagio is simply too fast! The rising semi-quavers that propel the movement to its shattering climax are played at more of a gallop than a slow hand pushing its victim to a certain death! Thus, the climax loses it's power somewhat.
I can appreciate that what Fischer is trying to do is to brush away cobwebs and make these works super clean for a modern audience, but, IMHO, that simply negates the character of the music.
Sorry Ivan. Nice try but, on this occasion, no doughnut.
(Edited 24 April 2015) I discovered Bruckner almost by accident in the mid-70s, courtesy of Radio 3, an undergraduate essay and a mental block. My favourite recordings in that period were Bernard Haitink's Third and Sixth, which had the sort of rolling gait and rhythmic drive that Bruno Walter achieved with the Columbia SO playing the first movement of Brahms's Third.
That probably gives you an insight into the performing style I prefer, and it's not for everyone. Given a choice between brooding introspection and penetrating analysis I am, alas, seduced by rhythmic intensity and drive: a short, bright burn rather than a smouldering ember. This recording is nearly ten minutes shorter than the one by the Vienna Phil with Karajan, and at this point you probably know all you need.
Now, BBC Radio 3 'CD Review' said that this was worth exploring for those wishing to experience Bruckner in a different style. I find it coherent and well paced, with clean textures and good sound. It is well-argued and never feels rushed or recklessly fast if you take it on its own terms. However, it is not reverential ... it is closer to Welser-Most's Fifth than Gunther Wand, if you get my drift.
If you are prepared to explore different approaches to Bruckner, this recording will add perspective. But if you feel that Bruckner merits depth and penetration above all, avoid it.
Caligula's decision to enrol Incitatus - his noble steed - into the Senate was less lunacy and more archetype. It has been emulated over time. Happily or otherwise, another instance is at hand - namely, Fiona Maddock's panegyric of this Bruckner Seventh:
"The works 'lithe' and 'Bruckner' don't tend to go together. Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra force you to break with habit. This account of the expansive Seventh Symphony is at once vigorous and lean. Dedicated to Wagner's patron, Ludwig II of Bavaria, it exists in countless famous recordings, some nearly 10 minutes longer than Fischer's. The Adagio is marked "very solemnly and very slowly". Fischer skims over the "very", increasing the pace and, in this clear, detailed performance, bringing a glowing transparency to the work. The sound quality is superb. It won't be to all tastes. It suits mine."
Subjectivity is king. Nevertheless, what is a man to say? Make way for his equestrian highness? Should I fetch a bridle? Is a pooper-scooper required?
Like it or not, the first movement of the B7th - a symphony in itself - is a longing to see God, enthroned in majesty. One does not have to share Bruckner's metaphysics in order to appreciate this work in depth - but a refusal to acknowledge this aspiration is calamitous. When married to a skimpy orchestra of no distinction and a Speedy Gonzales conductor, well, this offal gives landfill a bad name.
Listen to the opening bars where vibrato and indeed ostinato (!) are compressed viciously - in consequence, the strings whine like a two-stroke engine. From there, we lightheadedly gather nuts in May. In Furtwangler's hands, the self-contained episode before the first movement's coda is a Parousia and nothing less - one trembles at the thought, though not necessarily the existence of God. In Fischer's hands, it depicts a break-out from the free-range chicken ranch. It is soon trumped: the great coda itself - of sidereal origin - benefits Mister Kite and no-one else.
And who carked it in this diet, sprint-to-the-line, let's-not-tell-the-Vicar Adagio? Was it a bug on the windscreen? Some poor bogan from the sticks? I don't know. In its own way, this is an update of St Paul's statement, "O Death, where is thy sting!" and Fischer should have used a kazoo rather than cymbals to seal victory at its climax.
The latter two movements are inconsequential. I never thought that Bruckner shared any DNA with Mendelssohn but Fischer, in his wisdom, thinks otherwise. Don't blink or else you'll miss it.
As mentioned, the Australian Knappertsbusch Association is running our own version of the Razzies - and we are ever so grateful that the Mayor of Hiroshima and Sir Woger of Norrington (the Master of Disaster) will judge this tawdry affair. Contenders thus far include Arthur Schoonderwoerd (the poor bugger is madder than a cut snake), Alfred Brendel (lifetime `achievement' category) and Claudio Abbado (where does one start?). I suspect that much of the smart money will be channelled towards Fischer; with the ghost of Incitatus urging us on, bet with confidence!