Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: ATMA Classique
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Métropolitan Orchestra/ Yannick Nézet-Séguin
CATALOGUE NO: ACD2 2667

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This is a very beautiful Bruckner Fourth Symphony, by an increasingly interesting Bruckner conductor. Although Yannick Nézet-Séguin stresses Romantic warmth of sonority and richness of mood, it’s remarkable how textured the orchestral sound is. We don’t just hear the leading melodic lines, but also the echoes, imitations and counter-melodies that often get pushed into the background. It’s refreshing to hear Bruckner’s orchestral writing brought to life on so many levels, captured faithfully by the recording.

Nézet-Séguin’s decision to treat tempos in the four movements as variations of more or less the same basic pulse will be a sticking point for some, yet on the whole I think it’s convincing. Indeed, Nézet-Séguin makes one of the most convincing arguments for the problematic finale I’ve heard since Günter Wand’s superb Berlin Philharmonic version, released over a decade ago. Finest of all is the strange slow movement: part woodland pastorale, part funeral march. Listening to this performance one can sense how much Mahler must have loved this movement – the first Nachtmusik from his Seventh Symphony is only a step away.

In the end, Nézet-Séguin doesn’t quite manage to dislodge Wand. Spacious as the Wand is, he also manages to bring just a little more muscularity to the rhythms in the first movement, and Wand also finds a greater range of mood and colour throughout. Still, I’m very glad I heard this. It only just falls short of great Bruckner.

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Stephen Johnson