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Bruckner: Symphonies Nos 1 & 5 etc (Gewandhaus/Nelsons

Leipzig Gewandhausorchester/Andris Nelsons (DG)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Bruckner • Wagner
Bruckner: Symphonies Nos 1 (1891 version) & 5; Wagner: Tristan Prelude & Liebestod
Leipzig Gewandhausorchester/Andris Nelsons
DG 486 2083   145:13 mins (2 discs)


This double-disc release is the fourth in the cycle of Bruckner symphonies, together with Wagner preludes and extracts, recorded live by the Gewandhausorchester under Andris Nelsons. The finely arched opening phrases of the Tristan Prelude bode well, even if certain salient details in the Liebestod tend to get swallowed in the resonant acoustic of the Gewandhaus.

Unfortunately, Nelsons has opted for Bruckner’s late revision of his First Symphony, in which the bold originalities of the original are recurrently alloyed by fussy alterations, and the headlong dash of the finale – a unique instance in Bruckner’s output – is wrecked by constant tempo-changes.

Once he had completed his Fifth Symphony, on the other hand, Bruckner never seems to have felt the need to tinker with it, and it stands as one of his most uncompromising structures in its block-like contrasts and silences – requiring a special sense of the underlying relation between different tempos if movements are to be held together. Alas, it is evident from the opening pages of the Fifth, in which Nelsons starts slowly, takes the chorale slightly impatiently and then rushes the ensuing allegro, that he lacks this long-term co-ordinating sense. Later, at moments when brass or strings are going full volume, it is unclear whether the obscuring of inner detail is due to the recording or less than careful balancing of textures. With an orchestra of this stature, there are fine passages, of course. But this cannot be recommended as an essential release for Brucknerians.

Bayan Northcott

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