Symphony No. 3 (1873 Version)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
BIS BIS-2464 (CD/SACD) 56:35 mins
This is a magnificent performance of a notoriously controversial work. After listening to it I can see why this symphony might be thought extraordinary, because it is: but with all its strange features – constant changes of tempo, pauses and silences which must account for a considerable part of its length – under Thomas Dausgaard’s exuberant approach surely no one could find it tedious or less than enormous fun, among other things.
The Third’s chief claim to fame or notoriety is that it is dedicated to Wagner, and is thought derivative and unsymphonic. The premiere, conducted by its composer, was a catastrophe, so Bruckner tinkered with it extensively over many years, as did his well-meaning disciples; and the original version, heard here, is the least often performed or recorded. It’s not hard to hear why it met with incomprehension, with its wholly original structure and, most surprisingly, its mischief and wit, together with passages of nobility that everyone expects from Bruckner and perhaps most of all its incessant changes of tempo. Listen without preconception, and it should be instantly clear that it is an extraordinary masterpiece, which it has taken me this recording to realise.
Dausgaard is shaping up, on the strength of this and his previous Bruckner recording of the Fifth, as a much-needed fresh interpreter of this great and still widely misunderstood symphonist. I can only hope that he continues with this great master’s works, which also benefit from a leaner orchestral sound than we are used to.