WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in C minor
PERFORMER: Swedish CO/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1829
Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 is the first in his symphonic output in which his fingerprints are everywhere in evidence. It was also the first to get heavily mauled by critics and even friends, which led the insecure composer to cut some passages, and alter others. This recording restores what was cut, and is of the best available printed version.
It can’t surprise anyone that people had doubts. For instance, bars 540 to 655 of the last movement, which Bruckner cut but which are played here, are so bizarre in their scoring, harmony, disjointedness, that they still come as a shock. What the Second gives us is the kind of structure that we find in the later great symphonies, but without the thematic inspiration, and often with clumsy developments. On the other hand the scherzo is vintage Bruckner, virtually a pre-write of that of the Ninth, and with a characteristically cryptic trio.
This account is excellent – perfectly paced and balanced – and the smallish orchestra is all to the good in making Bruckner’s stark originality clear. But it would be unfair to regard the work itself, or this fresh account of it, as primarily to be listened to for instruction. The Second is a lovable and absorbing work, to be treasured for itself. Michael Tanner