Review by Windsurfer October 19, 2009 (13 of 16 found this review helpful)
|I don't have a favorite symphony. (Who does?) But if I did - this one just might be it. Oh, there is strong competition from several contenders, Shosty 13, Prokofiev 6 (and 5 for that matter) along with Schubert 9th, Beethoven 7th, Brahms 3rd, Mozart's G minor, and so on.
But why am I so taken with this particular Bruckner symphony?
First, it impresses with its joyful demeanor and positive self-assured outlook - this may be partially because the symphony is relatively terse. Other Bruckner can be so solemn, and so longwinded!
Second, the conclusion of the first movement yields a sense of "scaling the heights" where solo horn and trumpet carry a rising melody that changes key providing a sense of forward momentum. Unlike some other symphonies that also "scale the heights" this one achieves an uplifted joyous feeling without first having had to wade through the throes of angst!
While as a whole, this particular performance is more about power and drama than subtle nuance, Janowski and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande carry this final section of the first movement quite nicely. If fact it is beautiful.
The second movement changes mood somewhat to a more serious, perhaps slightly less colorful set of musical ideas. But if in most recordings there is a hint of congestion or of less than absolute clarity, that is not the case here. I could hear EVERYTHING!
Janowski's pacing seems ideal to me in all three of the initial movements and the orchestra meets every demand handsomely.
I find a dance like quality in the third movement, and it is played to perfection. The tuttis have a wonderful weight. The woodwinds are gorgeous and the brass choir provide exciting power with a degree of "burr" and "rasp" that is just splendid. Bruckner the rustic is here, Bruckner, that splendid rustic!
Some tempi of the fourth movement seem pushed along, but then that was compensated for handsomely by the way the tempi worked out in the longer term. If there were sections I would have liked taken slower, we suddenly come into a section where the faster tempi help make sense of Bruckner's overall conception.
A few concluding words about the sound. Especially nice is the way the recording communicates a sense of the hall. At the sudden end of big climaxes there is a cathedral-like atmosphere as the reverberant tail dies away. This has no hint of being artificial and I found the textures to be surprisingly transparent and beautiful.
Also worth comment: there are places where plucked bass viols are presented with a lot of, well, presence! These basses are short of "in your face", but they strongly reinforce the structure of the sound picture. I can imagine that if your speakers have a cavity resonance that gets touched off at this frequency, or if your room is not sized to accommodate this sound, you might feel that this recording is afflicted with a degree of "congestion". If you play this recording and have that problem, let me assure you it is your set-up, not the recording. You may benefit from moving your speakers toward or further from the wall. This recording is magnificent, and simply nothing short of that on my system.
Having stated that this performance is more about power and drama than subtle nuance, I must recognize here that Blomstedt's handsome version:
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 - Blomstedt
brings even more substance to two critical passages in the first movement. There are a set of descending chords toward the 2/3rds point of the first movement and which are reprised later. I don't think Janowski gives these short shrift by any means, but Blomstedt invests this passage, and its repeat with even more gravitas. For me however Janowski's more positive, robust, and happy outlook along with more than just marginally better sound wins the day.
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