Bruckner: Symphony No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Georg Tintner
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553454
This was the last recording in Georg Tintner’s Bruckner cycle; I’m told a rough cut of it was the last music he heard before his suicide last year. He’d already written the booklet notes, which make a passionate case for bypassing the long-established, but truncated and tidied-up recensions of 1877 and 1888/9 and returning to Bruckner’s original version of 1873, dedicated and presented to Wagner, and published only in 1977, Wagner quotations, heavenly length and all. I think only Eliahu Inbal has so far recorded this 1873 score, as part of his Teldec Bruckner cycle with the Frankfurt Radio SO in 1983. It’s immediately apparent that Tintner’s approach is very different – vaster, grander, more spacious in every way. Allowing the music – as Bruckner’s friends and colleagues would never allow it – to breathe at its own pace, he adds 12 minutes to Inbal’s timing and lets everything flow with uncommon inevitability. Surely no Bruckner Third, in any version, has sounded more magnificent, more immediate a presage of Symphonies Nos 8 and 9. The outer movements have a raw power that has nothing to do with roughness and everything with the perfect articulation of an enormous natural organism; the Adagio has tremendous inward intensity, the Tristan quotations emerging as if they were Bruckner’s own thoughts.

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As for the orchestra, the SNO (as it then was) played the first Bruckner Third I ever heard some 35 or more years ago: aficionados said, that evening, it had never sounded so good. Few of the same personnel can still be with it, but it sounds better yet, and plays for Tintner as if inspired. So he bowed out on a triumph. Calum MacDonald