Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A

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LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Symphony No. 6 in A
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94556-2 DDD
Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony, the gateway to the three that formed the zenith of his symphonic output, took two years to write (1879-81) and another two before the middle pair of movements (all that the cautious Vienna Philharmonic would perform) were premiered in 1883. Even so, its reception was positive, and the damning critic Hanslick could only accuse the composer of becoming ‘somewhat more civilised’. It is a happy work, written in a rare period of good luck, and is unique in not existing in anything other than its original version, though ironically the composer never heard it in its entirety. Barenboim’s live performance, in the somewhat matt acoustic of the Berlin Philharmonie, is positive from the outset, charging into the quintessential Brucknerian rhythms with élan and presenting slabs of orchestral texture. Vibrato is prominent in the lower register of violins and violas in the eloquent Adagio, the Scherzo threatens to ignore the composer’s ‘not quick’ tempo indication, the horns are at their best in the Trio, and the well-paced finale is given a blazing ending. This is a welcome addition to the catalogue. Christopher Fifield