Bruckner: Symphony No. 7

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Querstand
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner
WORKS: Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig/Herbert Blomstedt
CATALOGUE NO: VKJK 0708 (hybrid CD/SACD)
This is an exceptionally fine Bruckner Seventh. The only relatively recent version which I think beats it for sustained beauty and insight it is the Günter Wand/NDR 1992 live recording – and that’s marred by a horrible editing mistake in the coda of the Adagio,/i>. Herbert Blomstedt takes more time than Wand over the first movement (dangerous, given that it’s followed by that expansive Adagio), but the flowing, finely shaped phrasing, balance of tempo between sections, and unfailing sense of how each section fits into the whole, makes this exceptionally compelling amongst modern versions. Blomstedt respects the musical architecture, and the Leipzigers provide a wonderful rich, layered sound, but it’s clear that for Blomstedt there’s much more to Bruckner than these qualities, important as they are. Histrionics are avoided, as in any sense of expressive exaggeration, and yet this is a performance that ‘speaks’ as warmly and eloquently as Karl Böhm in his final DG version.

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The slow movement coda has a wonderful dignity (with unusually well-behaved Wagner tubas), throwing the majestic climax into strong relief. Incidentally, Blomstedt uses timpani but not cymbals or triangle at the high-point – musicologically defensible, and very effective here. Many performances run out of conviction after the Adagio,/i>, but Blomstedt makes the Scherzo sound just right as its continuation, and if he doesn’t quite rescue the elephantine massed brass passages in the finale, he certainly manages to keep the music moving forward, so that the end arrives with a proper sense of achievement. Excellent recordings too. Strongly recommended. Stephen Johnson