WORKS: Symphony No. 6; Six-part Ricercare from The Musical Offering
PERFORMER: Cleveland Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi
CATALOGUE NO: 436 153-2 DDD
Elsewhere (see Reissues) I have reviewed the Cleveland Orchestra under its longtime conductor George Szell playing Bruckner’s Third and Eighth Symphonies. Those stand the test of time well and this new disc of the Sixth under the present chief makes a fascinating comparison, with the recording location and even the ubiquitous producer, Paul Myers, the same, a quarter of a century later. Dohnányi and his players have drawn nourishment from that central European performing tradition brought to America by the likes of Szell to Cleveland and Reiner to Chicago (where Solti also benefited); solidly stylish, grandiose at climaxes, eloquent in adagios and occasionally producing oddities not found in the score.
Today we clean all those up, strive to be authentic, and get a squeaky (not literally) clean, bright and forward sound as technology advances towards perfection. With luck it won’t get there. The Sixth, in many ways an untypical Bruckner symphony, is the gateway to the last great, consummate trio which was to follow. It is too often the one that gets away, and though a little hard-driven and cool in places, Dohnányi’s reading will hopefully win the work new adherents. A superlative account of Webern’s Bach tamperings – glorious solos and plenty of colour and tonal variety – makes a splendid conclusion. Christopher Fifield