LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner * Wagner
WORKS: Bruckner: Symphony No. 3; Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture
PERFORMER: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Andris Nelsons
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 7208
Might this be the start of a complete cycle of Bruckner symphonies from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Andris Nelsons? On the strength of this I very much hope so. The orchestra is still one with a characteristic sound: warm strings and incisive woodwind, rounded and, when necessary, powerful brass. Interesting that Nelsons has started with this symphony, which Deryck Cooke rightly describes as ‘Bruckner’s least perfect but not least magnificent symphony’. It is the one with which Bruckner, and others, tinkered the most, the composer himself producing three distinct versions of it over a period of 16 years. Nelsons chooses the last, from 1888/89. It is also the shortest, and comes from the period when Bruckner couldn’t stop messing around with his previously written works. I prefer earlier versions, but at an hour this may be the best way into a work which has manifest faults alternating with passages of the greatest splendour.
The opening movement, staggering in its originality, throws down the gauntlet, and is succeeded by the first of Bruckner’s magical slow movements. Nelsons gives these their due, and does what can be done with the impish scherzo. Where he scales the heights, though, is the last movement, which for once sounds as if it knows where it is going and manages to get there. A fine performance of the Tannhäuser Overture follows too soon after.