WORKS: Symphony in F minor; Adagio from String Quintet (arr. Oeser)
PERFORMER: Deutsches SO Berlin/Vladimir Ashkenazy
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 920-2
Bruckner’s so-called ‘Study’ Symphony was written in 1863, and though it may have been little more than an academic exercise to the composer it is now beginning to be included among the established symphonies. There are Brucknerian fingerprints in the work which Ashkenazy highlights with his orchestra. At the start Schubert, the composer linked to Bruckner by the academician Sechter with whom he had just finished counterpoint studies, is clearly discernible, but after the exposition he takes a more imaginative path in the development section, with occasional chordal blocks of brass and darker Wagnerian colours in the clarinets. The Andante’s soliloquy reveals some woodwind playing of delicacy and subtle phrasing, but despite the rugged timpani in the scherzo, common in later Bruckner, the trio of the third movement remains uninspired; the Schumannesque finale has the best music in its blazing coda.
Although the Quintet is not symphonic in concept, its sublime Adagio (reminiscent of the Benedictus movements in his Masses) wants thicker textures than five strings can provide. Oeser’s arrangement works, the orchestra’s double viola parts providing density, but in this performance there are ragged moments and the final G flat major chord is dreadfully abrupt. Christopher Fifield