Bruckner • J Strauss

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bruckner,J Strauss
LABELS: Linn
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner: Symphony No. 2
WORKS: Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 (arr. A Payne); J Strauss: Wein, Weib und Gesang (arr. A Berg)
PERFORMER: Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble/Trevor Pinnock
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 442 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This new transcription of Bruckner’s Second Symphony, made in the spirit of the chamber orchestra reductions that featured in the concert programmes of Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performance, offers much food for thought. Anthony Payne’s expertly executed arrangement, conceived for an ensemble of only 20 players, brings a welcome transparency and rhythmic pungency to Bruckner’s full-blooded orchestration. A strong indebtedness to Schubert is highlighted particularly in the more intimate passages of the slow movement and in the Trio, both of which could almost pass off as effective sequels to the earlier composer’s Octet.

More problematic are the big tuttis at the close of the first and last movements. Here Payne tries to balance a string sextet against a barrage of wind, brass instruments and timpani. Inevitably, it’s an uneven playing field with the strings struggling to be heard, and at such moments the power and weight of the original scoring is sorely missed.

Still, it would be difficult to imagine more committed playing of this arrangement than is offered here by the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble. Alban Berg’s arrangement of Wein, Weib und Gesang is also effectively performed, if somewhat bereft of Viennese charm and elegance.

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Erik Levi