WORKS: Symphony No. 7 in E
PERFORMER: Dresden Staatskapelle/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 435 786-2 DDD
This was the symphony that made Bruckner’s name. He was 60 when it was premiered under Artur Nikisch in Leipzig, birthplace of Wagner, whose influence pervades the work.
Bruckner was actually writing the slow movement when news came of Wagner’s death on 13 February, 1883, and the Adagio’s coda became a memorial to his adored master. Four Wagner tubas are added to the brass chorus in both this movement and the Finale.
In many Bruckner symphonies we have either to deal with different versions or with cuts or rescorings by well-meaning conductors of his day determined to get the works performed. The Seventh is no exception, for although he never revised it, he was persuaded to rescore certain passages. Nikisch added timpani, triangle and cymbals at the climax to the Adagio; Bruckner, having at first endorsed it, then wrote ‘invalid’ on the score, but is it actually his handwriting and does it not just refer to the timpani at the bar above which it was written? The problem remains unsolved. Whereas Günter Wand opts for the original version, Sinopoli adds the percussion in a self-indulgent reading (except for an idiomatic Scherzo), using the Nowak edition, which also incorporates Nikisch’s tempo markings. Sinopoli is neither a Nikisch nor a Wand, but the Dresden Staatskapelle is very fine, even if, at the tuttis, this recording favours rich strings and blazing brass at the expense of the woodwind, the fault of many a Bruckner disc. Christopher Fifield