|Review by Scott September 13, 2006 (11 of 12 found this review helpful)
|There are relatively few performances of Bruckner symphonies on SACD, and probably even fewer of this symphony, a tough nut to pull-off in a performance. Marcus Bosch and his Aachen forces put on a performance that most Brucknerians will want to hear and that I greatly enjoyed.
The performance comes from a live event at the St. Nikolaus in Aachen on May 16, 2005. The full color, glossy booklet contains several pictures of the orchestra molded into the nave of this beautiful Catholic church in a somewhat unusual formation. (I wonder if this affected the sound on the recording?) The presentation for the disc is first-class.
The opening movement begins softly and the opening fanfares (in which the low brass, particularly the tubas and trombones, are emphasized and well-captured) are appropriate, but not the triple FFF that you often hear in other performances. This is not to say that they aren't forte, just appropriate - Bosch does not use them as an excuse for the brass sections to demonstrate their capacity to play loudly. The remainder of the first movement is played at a conventional pace, with especially good performances by the winds.
The Adagio is quite well-played and very enjoyable. While the Aachen orchestra perhaps lacks the fullness of string tone that Berlin or Vienna might bring to this work, the playing of the brass and the winds is very vivid. Ditto for the Scherzo, where Bosch does not alter the tempi much for the trio.
The de-emphasizing of the fanfares in the opening movement sets the stage for Bosch's interpretation of this symphony - I believe he sees the last movement as the heart of the work, with everything else being preparation. Starting at a moderate pace, the performance quickens slightly and the tension begins to build as the first fugue begins to unroll. Playing remains superlative, especially the brass and the lower strings. Everything culminates into a thunderous conclusion - very enjoyable.
This venue, as mentioned earlier, is a large church and it must be admitted that the sound stage is quite resonant. I believe the recording engineers have done a very good job capturing much inner detail, with only rare moments of sonic congestion. This might not be the case listening in multi-channel.
While listening to this performance, the thought ran through my mind that, as often as Bruckner's symphonic writing and style are compared/analogized to organ music, this performance, recording, and venue really bring that image to life - with it's weighty bass emphasis at the fanfares, the orchestra often sounds a lot like an organ playing in a cathedral. So if you enjoy Bruckner in a cathedral-like venue, with a lot of air around the sound, I believe this disc will be very much to your liking. If not, you might be put off the by the sound, though I would still recommend the performance.
I listened to this disc in stereo SACD sound using a Yamaha SACD player, Sony receiver, and Mirage speakers.
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