Bruckner, Wagner: Symphony No. 7; Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner,Wagner
WORKS: Symphony No. 7; Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
PERFORMER: BBC SO, ENO Orchestra/Reginald Goodall
Reginald Goodall’s Bruckner had two great strengths, as those who have heard his remarkable 1971 performance of the Eighth Symphony (also on BBC Legends, reviewed May 2002) will know already. On the one hand there’s a very modern respect for architectural proportion, and it’s never hurried – one is allowed to feel the space as well as the dimensions. But at the same time – and this is a little more surprising – it’s so generously, Romantically expressive. If Günter Wand’s Bruckner shows us how close the composer was to Schubert, Goodall’s reminds us that he was Wagnerian as well. His glowing though not always ideally together account of the Meistersinger Prelude makes a very fitting coupling. There were times during the Bruckner – the noble, arching opening melody, or the moving threnody that ends the slow movement – when I wondered if this wasn’t simply the finest Seventh I’d ever heard. But there are problems, too. Does the scherzo have to be quite so dogged (Bruckner marks it ‘Very fast’)? And one or two climaxes – especially that of the slow movement – struck me as under-powered. After much mental toing and froing I’ve gone back to the older EMI Karajan (recorded the same year as the Goodall) as my all-round recommendation – a very beautiful and consistently impressive performance. But I’m glad I heard this, and if you’re an exploratory Brucknerian, you should, too. Stephen Johnson