Bruckner: Symphony No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: ATMA
WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Orchestre Métropolitain/ Yannick Nézet-Séguin
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 2 2700

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Bruckner’s Third Symphony is his first completely characteristic work, but it exists in a bewildering number of versions – five according to the booklet. It was only in 1977 that the first and largest of them, recorded here, was published.

It is an almost madly ramshackle work, yet not a minute goes by without an indication of Bruckner’s astonishingly original genius. There are the usual flickering string figures, with brass entering majestically; the huge silences, followed by a theme seemingly unrelated to what has gone before; and the final barnstorming pages of the first and last movements. The first movement alone lasts for 25 minutes and is, from a structural point of view, a complete mess. The slow movement is the first of Bruckner’s sublime adagios, and the work would be worth hearing for it alone. The scherzo is a mischievous and sinister piece, with a delightful Ländler as the trio. The last movement is another complete mess, but all its constituents are fascinating. Not a note could have been written by any previous composer and certainly not by Wagner, to whom the Symphony is fulsomely dedicated.

Yet any lover of the sublime mature works will want to hear this one from time to time. Although the Orchestre Métropolitain under Yannick Nézet-Séguin isn’t the ideal one for Bruckner – the sound is too edgy, the brass not rounded enough – it still has the measure of the sweep and near-grandeur of this work.

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Michael Tanner