WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in D minor
PERFORMER: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98405-2 DDD
Barenboim’s new account of the Eighth (Haas edition) is bold and unexaggerated. It closes, however, in controversy. In keeping with what Barenboim calls a ‘whole tradition’ of Bruckner/Wagner performance – ‘taken over by the Nazis as the artistic expression of a particular ideology… each time you get a real climax, it has to be taken slower, more feierlich, more majestic, to the glory of the Third Reich’ – conductors usually rein in the polyphony of the final peroration. Barenboim doesn’t, with results he freely admits may seem ‘a little abrupt’. The despiritualising effect of this cleansing operation won’t be to everyone’s taste.
In the Fifties, Harnoncourt played cello in Karajan’s Bruckner in Vienna. Despite this, he’s anxious, like Barenboim, to ‘clear away all [the] ballast’ of acquired tradition surrounding Bruckner interpretation. His view of the Third Symphony (1877 version/Nowak), recorded ‘live’ with attendant risks, has beautiful, even splendid moments, yet somehow lacks the passion and personal temperament of his Haydn or Beethoven. Phrase endings in particular have a disquieting tendency to rush, and while climaxes are big, very little happens in between. Not all Bruckner’s fault, surely? Ates Orga