Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 in C minor

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WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in C minor
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Georg Solti
Bruckner’s Second Symphony was begun while he was in London as one of several virtuosi invited to inaugurate the organ at the Royal Albert Hall in 1871. He had just moved from the Austrian provinces to Vienna, but his entry into the political maelstrom of the capital was not easy. The Philharmonic Orchestra rejected the symphony, so Bruckner bought their services for its premiere under his own baton in October 1872. In 1876 it was revived by their conductor Herbeck, but only after he had persuaded a reluctant Bruckner to make changes, the first of several musicians to exert such influence on him during his life. In an age when we strive for authenticity and seek out a composer’s original text, it is odd that Solti should have chosen Nowak’s edition of the revised version for this recording, particularly as the editor himself didn’t make much of a case for its use. Nevertheless the Chicago orchestra gives Solti a committed, elegiac account, particularly in the Andante. If the exuberant brass occasionally dominates detail worth hearing elsewhere, there is a strongly rhythmic emphasis throughout (to be expected from this conductor), and felicitous woodwind playing in the Scherzo and Finale, but I still regret Solti’s editorial preference for Nowak rather than Haas, who edited Bruckner’s original version. Christopher Fifield