Brahms Symphonies (Gardner) and Bruckner 6 (Rattle) CD reviews

NEW BRAHMS AND BRUCKNER RELEASES IMPRESS NORMAN STINCHCOMBE


BRAHMS, SYMPHONIES 1 & 3: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Edward Gardner (Chandos CD/SACD CHSA 5236) ★★★★

It's not faint praise to say that Gardner steers a middle path between extremes of Brahms' symphony conducting. The rugged granitic approach of Klemperer, the geniality of Walter and the sleek dynamism of Karajan still have a lot to offer – but with reservations. Klemperer's tempos can be ponderous while Walter and Karajan omitted first movement exposition repeats. Gardner rightly observes both, giving structural weight and solidity, but his flowing tempi ensure that the music never drags. Flowing but not hectic, which is how Gardiner and Norrington, using period instruments, can sometimes be. The Bergen orchestra's playing has a warm burnished sound enhanced by their hall's excellent acoustics and the Chandos engineer's spacious sound – perhaps a mite too distant for some tastes. Gardner's No.1 is imposing but never overlooks lyricism while the third is dynamic with Brahms' orchestral textures never allowed to thicken. A very promising start to this Brahms series.
Norman Stinchcombe




BRUCKNER SYMPHONY no. 6: London Symphony Orchestra / Rattle (LSO Live CD/ SACD LSO0842) ★★★★★

There are an abundance of fine recordings of all Bruckner's symphonies from 0-9, except for the sixth. Whether enigmatic or just problematic it has eluded even great Brucknerians, although Klemperer (Warner Classics) and Dohnanyi (Decca), now deleted, had its measure. Now here's a third. Sir Simon Rattle's approach, like theirs, is neither a headlong rush nor an attempt to make the sixth sound as grand as the fifth or eighth. The latter was Sir Colin Davis's view in his 2003 LSO recording – a glacial Adagio and overall time six minutes slower than Rattle's 56. There is tension and urgency here in the mysteriously pulsing morse-code style opening – intimations of important things to come – and Rattle never lets the slow movement stagnate. The LSO strings are lustrous, with warmth and depth, but they are never indulged. The recorded sound is close but detailed. For scholars, the 2016 Urtext edition is used.

Norman Stinchcombe

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