Yutaka Sado conducts Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Tonkünstler
ALBUM TITLE: Bruckner
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Tonkünstler Orchestra/Yutaka Sado
CATALOGUE NO: TON2002

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This recording is of a concert given last year in Vienna’s Musikverein. It shows among other things that the Tonkünstler Orchestra can hold its own with any other orchestra playing Bruckner, and that Yutaka Sado, not very well known in this country, is a fine, perceptive conductor of what I find the most problematic of Bruckner’s symphonies. For a long time the Fourth was the most popular of his works, but that may have done his reputation more harm than good. The opening is magical, the horn call over the trademark string tremolandos. But whereas in the first three symphonies Bruckner is clearly discovering what kind of work he wants to write, and in the case of the Third offering various possibilities from which to take one’s pick, the Fourth becomes, in the outer movements especially, diffuse and even absurd.

Fortunately, going against a growing trend, Sado conducts the 1880 version, the score of which is more than 100 pages shorter than the 1874 original. Even then, and even with Sado’s masterly sense of structure, there are too many stops and starts. If, even so, you love the work for its many beauties, this new version ranks among the finest recent ones.

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Michael Tanner