Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in D minor
PERFORMER: BBC Scottish SO/Osmo Vänskä
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67200
The late Deryck Cooke, who once dubbed the Third ‘the least perfect though not the least magnificent’ among Bruckner’s symphonies, began to unravel the Gordian entanglements created by successive revisions of this work in his 1982 study The Bruckner Problem Simplified. Most Bruckner conductors still prefer to record the 1877 version in Leopold Nowak’s edition. Others, memorably Inbal, Norrington and the late Georg Tintner, have proselytised for the ‘original’ 1873 score (which Bruckner used at the disastrous Vienna premiere on 16 December 1877), as yet unpublished when Cooke offered up his findings.

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In this impressively cogent new traversal of Bruckner’s Wagner-Symphonie from Osmo Vänskä and the BBC Scottish SO, we hear the 1877 Nowak score, but with the 1876 Adagio, exhumed after numerous pencilled and pasted corrections had been carefully erased from the orchestral parts used in the first performance. Vänskä’s reading has been diligently prepared; Bruckner’s dynamic markings are faithfully observed, and in pace, projection and ethos, Vänskä proclaims himself a master Brucknerian in waiting.

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The drawback is that, although wanting little in quality, the string complement of the BBC Scottish SO does lack slightly in numbers – especially in the violins – and not even Vänskä’s watchfulness in balancing his forces always conceals the fact. However, the 1876 Adagio includes additional Wagnerian fragments, notably from Tannhäuser, and its inclusion here certainly casts fresh perspectives on the evolution of the work. Committed Brucknerians will naturally want to hear Vänskä, but if you’re new to this symphony, you’d do better with Harnoncourt’s exemplary account of the complete 1877 text. Michael Jameson