Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Lucerne Festival
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 7640125 120455
The Lucerne Festival Orchestra is a body of players so distinguished, brought together each year for their own pleasure, and to play under Claudio Abbado, that there may never have been so fine a collective instrument. It is possible to see on the many DVDs of them that they listen to one another intently, and that they and their conductor can hardly stop smiling for the sheer joy of their music-making. This performance of Bruckner’s Romantic Symphony was given at Suntory Hall in Tokyo last October, and shows everyone on top form except for – in my opinion – Bruckner himself.

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This is the most earthy, the least spiritually adventurous of his symphonies, and one in which he wallows in the possibilities of a huge modern orchestra. He also is more than usually uncertain about what to do next in the finale, with a number of silences before the next idea occurs to him that is exorbitant even by his standards.

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Played with such perfection as it is here, the Symphony’s failings become if anything more apparent than usual. Abbado takes the work at face value, and for anyone whose attention span is about three minutes this will sound like the most gorgeous series of sounds they have ever heard. If you want less beauty and more impression of direction it’s a good idea to go to Günter Wand. Michael Tanner