Bruckner: Symphony No 7

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: BR Klassik
WORKS: Symphony No 7
PERFORMER: The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 403571900100 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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While it’s right to stress that in some senses Bruckner stood apart from the very late Romanticism of his times, there was also a side of him that had  a profound kinship with Schubert and even Wagner. One can make too much of the architecture and the otherworldly beauty and miss the human being who described himself as ‘fiery and romantic’.

As one might expect, Mariss Jansons’s approach is anything but cold. In fact, some of the deepest insights occur in pastoral or contemplative passages: the woodwind-violins exchanges in the coda of the Adagio, the tender rumination of the Scherzo’s central trio, and most of all the symphony’s hushed, magical opening. 

Jansons is watchful of tempo and on the whole doesn’t let rubato distort the underlying steady current. But just occasionally he does lean a bit too lovingly on a detail or a turn of phrase.

And while it’s welcome to have lyricism, pathos and affection in the foreground, they do tend to come at the expense of grandeur, or driving energy in the Scherzo proper – though certainly the recording is partly to blame for the lack of immediacy in climaxes. Few modern versions balance these paradoxical elements in Bruckner convincingly.

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I’m not absolutely convinced by Georg Tintner on Naxos, but until RCA correct the editing blunder in the Wand/NDR version, Tintner’s dignified, touching and beautifully shaped approach is more than adequate. Stephen Johnson