Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3

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LABELS: Profil Hanssler
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (1873 version)
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Dresden/Yannick Nézet-Séguin


Whichever version of the score you choose, Bruckner’s Third Symphony remains a transition work, with all the fascinations and frustrations that term implies. There are moments when it sounds like the kind of thing a gifted but awkward teenager might write while still in the first ecstasies of love for Beethoven and Wagner. At others it seems to stand, awestruck, on the threshold of a new musical universe. Bruckner may have refined the style and eased some of the transitions in his later revisions, but in doing so he seems to have lost sight, at least partially, of the vision that originally inspired him. To listen to the original 1873 score directed by a conductor who really understands it is to realise just how much was lost.

And Yannick Nézet-Séguin has got this huge, seemingly sprawling score better than anyone else I’ve heard – better even than the perceptive Georg Tintner on Naxos. The opening long crescendo (significantly longer than in any of the revised versions) is thrilling – but then comes the opening out at the climax, and that sense of stepping into an immense, mysterious space. The almost medieval scale and purity of conception Tintner finds is strongly present here as well, but Nézet-Séguin hasn’t forgotten that this is the work Bruckner proudly presented to the world as his ‘Wagner’ Symphony. Somehow lush Wagnerian ardour and a much older kind of mystical austerity don’t just cohabit, they even fuse.

It was the Dresden Staatskapelle who gave the 1873 score its very belated premiere in 1946, and now they bring a feeling for the special sound world of this version that beats all rivals.

Stephen Johnson


Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.