WORKS: Symphony No. 4 in E flat (Romantic)
PERFORMER: New York PO/Kurt Masur
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-93332-2 DDD
It seems there’s an endless stream, some say surfeit, of discs of Bruckner symphonies; nevertheless these two are a must for devotees. The Szell recording was made in 1968 just two years before his death and is a live concert at the Salzburg Festival, his uneasy relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic now mellowed and reaping dividends. They play devotedly for him in a reading full of analytical thought and meticulous preparation, yet also with emotional fervour and personal reverence.
Szell’s greatest work may have been achieved in the New World, but he could never sever his roots with Central Europe and its musical legacy. Masur also followed Szell to America, from Leipzig to New York, where, without the strictures of Szell’s harsh orchestral discipline (inoperable in today’s world), he has nevertheless made a considerable impression. This is also a live (but very recent) recording, the fashion nowadays being to live dangerously and accept the risks of human error in performance. There are none here in this vibrant, exhilarating account of the Romantic Fourth (Haas edition), which reveals Masur as a Brucknerian to be reckoned with. The Szell performance does have a few blemishes and the sound is rather dead. Nevertheless, both discs are recommended. Christopher Fifield