Gustavo Gimeno conducts Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 and Four Orchestral Pieces

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: PentaTone
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Four Orchestral Pieces
PERFORMER: Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Gustavo Gimeno
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 613 (hybrid CD/SACD)


Bruckner may well have known what he was doing when he revised his Symphony No. 1 in 1890-91, a decade and a half after he composed it. The CD note describes this later ‘Vienna’ version as ‘perfection on the basis of experience’. But after hearing this clearly dedicated performance, I’m still left wishing he’d never touched it. The earlier ‘Linz’ version is a lively, quirky, audacious and very attractive post-Mendelssohnian symphony. I can imagine it appealing to people to find the later symphonies indigestible. If you find that hard to believe, listen to Bernard Haitink’s recording of the Linz version: 45 years old and still unmatched. Revising it, Bruckner added more weight and some undeniably more sophisticated harmonies, but the freshness has gone, and the finale’s coda – so exciting in the Linz score – is here bizarrely monumentalised.

Gustavo Gimeno and the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg are most convincing in the slow movement, whose strangely probing opening remains a highlight. But in the outer movements Gimeno doesn’t quite seem to have found the thread – or is it that Bruckner has destroyed it with too much fussy revising? By the end I’d even begun to feel an uneasy sympathy with some Bruckner agnostics.

The four orchestral pieces – products of Bruckner’s belated student years with Simon Sechter – come across rather better, but then Bruckner never took the opportunity to tamper with them. The March, in particular, is lively and charming, with foretastes of things to come. Is that enough to recommend the disc though?


Stephen Johnson