Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 in D minor

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WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in D minor
PERFORMER: London Classical Players/Roger Norrington
This disc is an important one as regards the performance of Bruckner’s symphonies. Norrington tends to be renowned for fast speeds: here he is eight minutes quicker than the only other current recording, Eliahu Inbal’s, of this original (1873) version of the symphony. This is a cogently argued account using the orchestral forces of the Vienna Philharmonic of the 1870s. Forty-five gut string instruments are used, with leather-covered timpani, distinctively different sounding wind and brass, forward-facing cellos and basses and a platform layout which highlights cross-stage dialogue between related instruments. The result is sometimes extraordinary and glorious, as with the string sound in the Sleep motif from Walküre, if elsewhere there is a lack of resonance and space and the same strings can be drowned. For Norrington, Bruckner is a thoroughly human character, a sacred and secular man who, in musical terms, could produce anything from chorales to polkas. The influence of Bruckner upon Mahler should never be underestimated, and there’s much in this performance to support such a view. How would the last three Bruckner symphonies sound under Norrington? Christopher Fifield