Bruckner: Symphony No. 7

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/ Georg Tintner
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554269
Tintner is fond of making the point about Bruckner that ‘one who deals with eternal things is in no hurry, and therefore performers and listeners must also allow plenty of time.’ His notes on the Seventh (1881-3) tell us a lot about what to expect. He sees its ‘main weight’ lying in the opening two movements, the three subject groups of the first variously ‘peaceful’, ‘restless’ and like ‘an austere rhythmic dance’. The A minor scherzo he thinks of as ‘joyful’ (its trio ‘elegant’); the finale ‘lovely’ – ‘in relation to the rest… more like the finale in a Haydn symphony’. Preferring Haas’s definitively clean 1944 text – which (unlike Nowak’s) censors the spurious climactic percussion of the second movement, and offers the musical and formal advantage of largely uninterrupted tempo lines – goes with the man.

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At nearly 66 minutes, Tintner’s account, like Karajan’s final Vienna version, is at the quicker end of a time spectrum ranging randomly from 62 (Furtwängler’s 1951 Cairo performance) to 77 (Barenboim’s Berlin remake). His grasp of the long phrase, of melodic rise and fall, of big, sweeping paragraphs finely detailed orchestrally, shows an instinctively natural Brucknerian, alert to tension no less than repose, mindful that gratuitous rhetoric is unwanted. His codas are magnificent cadential caesuras, mountingly inevitable in the outer movements, magically suspended in the Wagner elegy of the second. Odd reservations aside – the tempo hiccup at 5:38 of the first movement, for instance, where shades of banality momentarily disconcert – this is a reading to compare with such vintage Haas/Nowak greats as von Matacic´ (Supraphon 1967) or the Karajan Berlin epic for EMI (1971). A word of caution, though. You need to replay at quite a high level fully to appreciate what’s going on. Anything less and it loses its punch. Ates Orga