2000 Bruckner Marathon

The 2000 Bruckner Marathon was held on 2 September 2000 in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) to celebrate Bruckner's 176th birthday. The recordings were selected by Ramón Khalona and Dave Griegel with the goal of presenting an interesting variety of styles from some of the greatest Bruckner conductors.

Program Notes

Symphony in F Minor

Eliahu Inbal
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt
Recorded May 1991
Teldec 72300

Eliahu Inbal's Bruckner cycle is often overlooked these days, but it is nonetheless important because of the texts chosen. Inbal made première or nearly première recordings of the first versions of the Third, Fourth, and Eighth, and he recorded as well Bruckner's unnumbered symphonies in D minor and F minor. Inbal's recording of the latter is one of the few available. He avoids extremes in tempi, with a performance that clocks in somewhere between Tintner's brisk reading and Rozhdestvensky's slow reading.

Symphony No. 1

Georg Tintner
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Recorded 31 August and 1 September 1998
Naxos 8.554430

The release of this recording has finally ended sixty-five years of frequent misunderstanding. When Haas first published the "Linz" score of this symphony, most believed it to be the original version of the score, particularly given the 1865/66 designation given to the score by Haas and, subsequently, by Nowak. However, Haas' critical report tells a different story: the Linz version is actually a revision Bruckner made in 1877 while living in Vienna! But the same report gives the details of the true original version composed in 1865/66. During the summer of 1998, William Carragan created a score and parts based on Haas' report, which Tintner used for the present recording. The main differences from the usual, misnamed Linz version are to be found in the final movement.

This world premiere recording is a wonderful tribute to the great Brucknerian Georg Tintner. At last year's Bruckner marathon, he was hailed as the "greatest living Bruckner conductor". Little did we know that he would die exactly four weeks later. His legacy is now firmly established with the fine Bruckner cycle he left us.

Symphony No. 0

Hortense von Gelmini
Nürnberger Symphoniker
Recorded in the early 1970s (first issued in 1975)
Colosseum LP SM 558

Up to the 1970s, when this recording was made, there were few recordings of this symphony (and there are still relatively few when compared with the quantity of recordings of Bruckner's 'big' symphonies). This recording has the distinction of being, as far as we know, the only studio recording of a Bruckner symphony by a female conductor. Von Gelmini enjoyed some success in Germany in the earlier part of her career with recordings of Bruckner and Shostakovich. Her recording of Bruckner's early D-minor symphony is passionate and rather well conducted. In a world mysteriously shy of female Bruckner lovers, Von Gelmini's recording is a wonderful example of the way things ought to be.

Another claim to fame of the Nürnberger Symphoniker is the only recording of Bruckner's Psalm 146, also on Colosseum LP, a 30-minute work that should be performed more often.

Symphony No. 2

Franz Konwitschny
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Recorded 14 January 1951
Berlin Classics 9173

Konwitschny's recordings of Der fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser are perhaps the finest recordings of these operas. And like many fine conductors of Wagner, Konwitschny also was a fine Brucknerian. His recording of the Second is one of the earliest extant complete recordings of this work, with only the wartime Georg-Ludwig Jochum recording (in terrible sound) preceding it. This is one of the greatest recorded performances of the symphony. Of course, since it is from 1951, before the publication of the Nowak edition let alone Carragan's definitive scores, it is textually untidy. Konwitschny based his performance on the Haas edition, but he excluded all of the passages added by Haas with the exception of the recapitulation codetta in the Finale. But it is a fantastic performance with timpani (and one or two coughs from the audience) that will lift you out of your seat.

The orchestra is not the West Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (now known as the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin), but the East Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. They do not play as well as their western counterparts, but the leadership from the podium is so outstanding that one easily forgets about any deficiencies in the orchestra. This is a wonderful reading in the grand old style.

Symphony No. 3

Gennady Rozhdestvensky
USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 1988
Japanese BMG/Melodiya BVCX-38005~6

From 1983 to 1988, Rozhdestvensky recorded what is likely to remain the most complete Bruckner cycle for many years to come. All eleven symphonies were recorded, often in multiple versions. The sound of the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra seems, at first, to be completely wrong for Bruckner, especially in the brass, but with time the ears adjust and the uniqueness of the performances can come through. Many are simply "over the top".

The cycle includes not one, but three and a quarter, recordings of the Bruckner Third: the 1876 Adagio, the first printing of 1880 (probably Oeser's edition), the second printing of 1890, and--the recording we have chosen--Nowak's edition of the 1873 version. Rozhdestvensky's reading of the score is much more interesting than those by Inbal and Norrington, though it is not so monumental as Tintner's reading.

Symphony No. 4

Rafael Kubelik
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recorded 1 December 1971
Japanese Fachmann FKMCDR-5

The name of Rafael Kubelik does not come readily as a prime exponent of Bruckner's music, yet he conducted nearly all of the composer's symphonies with the world's greatest orchestras -- studio or live recordings exist with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and perhaps others. He had a special affinity for the Sixth symphony, of which at least four recordings are extant. This performance of the Fourth symphony is taken from a concert at Vienna's Musikverein on 1 December 1971. It shows Kubelik's characteristic way with Bruckner, with urgent tempi and a sense of drive that he did not often display in his studio recordings.

Symphony No. 5

Michael Gielen
SWF Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden
Recorded November/December 1989
Intercord 860907

The conductor/composer Michael Gielen recorded several of Bruckner's symphonies (4, 5, 7, 8, 9 -- a rumored recording of the Sixth with this orchestra has not been confirmed) while he was music director at Baden-Baden. Of all these, it is safe to say that the Fifth is the most extraordinary (with the possible exception of a wonderful reading of the 1874 Fourth). Shunning the slow tempi to which this symphony has been subjected in recent years, Gielen gives us a performance of great intensity and drive, with a finale that displays an energy level seldom heard in the mighty Fifth, perhaps only rivalled by Botstein's recording of the Schalk edition, Welser-Möst's recording (both with the LPO), and Furtwängler's wartime recording (with the BPO).

Symphony No. 6

Joseph Keilberth
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recorded 1962
Teldec 8.43194 (Japanese Teldec WPCS-6052)

The Keilberth Sixth is one of the earlier recordings of this often neglected work, and it is also one of the best. (Keilberth also made a commercial recording of the Ninth a few years prior to recording the Sixth.) The recording starts off with a wonderfully broad reading of the first movement (which probably will not satisfy certain purists), followed by a relatively brisk reading of the Adagio. An unusual characteristic of this performance is the sound of the Berlin Philharmonic brass section, which sounds very East German. Nevertheless, this orchestra always played superbly for Keilberth (as evidenced in their other joint recordings), and the wonderful brass sonorities are quite appropriate for Bruckner.

Symphony No. 7

Sergiu Celibidache
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recorded 1 April 1992
Sony 48352

Recent years have seen the publication of several of Celibidache's Bruckner recordings. This has resulted in a clear picture of the evolution of his interpretation of Bruckner's music. While early recordings were not too far from the norm when it comes to tempi, his late recordings (mostly with the Munich Philharmonic) are in a class by themselves in showing Celi's individual style. This recording derives from a concert at Berlin's Philharmonie in early 1992. It displays Celibidache's deliberate, almost eccentrically slow, tempi and beautiful phrasing to an even greater degree than his commercially issued recording with the Munich Philharmonic. Celi challenges music lovers to a new conception of Bruckner's music, one that pays rich dividends to the patient and attentive listener.

Symphony No. 8

Eugen Jochum
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg
Recorded January/February 1949
Deutsche Grammophon 449758

Jochum's recording of the Eighth is the first commercial recording of this symphony (if one excludes Klemperer's acoustic recording of the Adagio from 1924). While Bruckner's Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth received more than one recording each during the 78-rpm era, the Eighth was first recorded comparatively late. Unlike the other recordings initially on 78s, the Jochum was initially recorded on tape.

One might expect this performance to be similar to the later stereo commercial recordings for DG and EMI, but this is not so. The early Jochum Eighth, for one thing, uses the Haas edition of the score, and Jochum takes much more time to get through it. The Adagio alone is over 30 minutes long-- about five minutes longer than Jochum can maintain the focus. But, despite the later improvements, this early reading is a fascinating lesson in the recorded history of this great work.

Symphony No. 9

Herbert Blomstedt
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Recorded January 1995
Decca 458964

Since assuming the music directorship of the LGO, Blomstedt has added to his personal Bruckner discography (previously consisting of recordings of the 4th and 7th with Staatskapelle Dresden and of the 4th and 6th with the San Francisco Symphony) this marvelous recording of the Ninth. Here is a performance on a grand scale, but with a sense of urgency that defies criticism. The Leipzigers support him well, and there is evidence of a significantly different sound from this orchestra, which used to exhibit the typical Eastern European sound on Masur's Bruckner cycle from the 70s. Blomstedt and the LGO, assisted admirably by the Decca recording team, take great care to bring out details that are obscured in many recordings, like the distinctive timpani rolls after the first phrase in the Scherzo, and the treatment given to Bruckner's terrifying dissonant strings in the Adagio has seldom sounded so effective.