Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 (1877 version)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Anton Bruckner
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 (1877 version)
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (1877 version)
PERFORMER: Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Marek Janowski


Bruckner revised his Second Symphony substantially twice, but it’s arguable that he never got it quite right. The Second, first completed in 1872, is more original than the remarkable First (1866), though also more faltering. Even in that aspect, though, it can be fascinating if performed with love and understanding, and there’s plenty of both in Marek Janowski’s new version. We sense Bruckner slowly, patiently, sometimes a little uncertainly, coming to terms with the fact that what he has to say is utterly unlike anything that’s ever been said in music before.

Janowksi uses William Carragan’s new edition of the (relatively) familiar 1877 score. It’s tauter than the old Haas edition, but quirkier than the later Novak. There’s a surprise return of the once-excised high horn and solo bassoon in the Andante – and when played like this it’s good to have this fascinatingly strange passage back. The far less rounded, but more compelling transition (more like a lurch) from Scherzo to coda is also a big plus. Bruckner originally marked the Scherzo ‘fast’, then dropped it to ‘moderately fast’. For me Janowski errs a little too much on the moderate side. This music should still dance.

Otherwise, though, this is a very persuasive Bruckner Symphony No. 2: well paced, warmed toned without heaviness, Romantically atmospheric and with stranger inspirations subtly highlighted. The recording suits Janowski’s approach admirably. The ending may be the least convincing in Bruckner’s symphonic output, but you’ll probably still feel like applauding.


Stephen Johnson