Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Linz Bruckner OrchestraDennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 604882
My one reservation first. Dennis


Russell Davies starts the slow

movement at an unusually lively

walking pace – not too contentious

in itself, but he’s unable to sustain it

through the climax and coda, giving

the movement an oddly lopsided feel,

structurally speaking. But the rest of

the performance is so revealing that

three stars seems too measly for a

final verdict.

Generally speaking, Davies and the

orchestra perform this first version

of the Fourth Symphony with such

understanding, warmth and authority

that it makes most other versions

I’ve heard sound like tentative readthroughs.

While Bruckner added

some splendid things in the revised

score, it wouldn’t have been a disaster

if he’d left it as it was. Yes, the familiar

scherzo is a better movement, but

the original is fascinating with its

eerie horn-calls (did Mahler see the

score?). Moreover the original finale

is a much better structure, and in

this performance its notoriously

complex rhythms spring to life.

And in all four movements there are

touches of Romantic poetry or sheer

breathtaking originality that one can

only regret losing. Doubts about the

end of the slow movement aside, no

one – not even the intermittently

impressive Georg Tintner on Naxos

– makes quite such a convincing

case for the original Bruckner Four.


Stephen Johnson