Bruckner (Abbado Symphony Edition) Box-Set
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Audio-CD, Box-Set, 16. Mai 2014
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“Große Musik ist unerschöpflich. In der Musik wie im Leben gibt es keine Grenzen.“ (Claudio Abbado)
Mit Claudio Abbado hat die Musikwelt einen großen Künstler und überzeugten Humanisten verloren. Die Symphony Edition präsentiert nun das Vermächtnis des genialen Klangzauberers in Einzel-Editionen, die jeweils dem symphonischen Werk eines Komponisten gewidmet sind. Diese 5 CD Edition Bruckner enthält dessen Symphonien Nr. 1, 4, 5, 7 & 9. Darunter die unvergleichliche neuere Aufnahme der ersten Symphonie mit dem Lucerne Festival Orchestra, die “einem entgegen springt mit bemerkenswerter Schönheit und Kraft” (Fanfare) Ebenso eine versierter Klangkörper stand Abbado bei den anderen Einspielungen zur Verfügung, nämlich die Wiener Philharkmoniker, ein Bruckner-Orchester par exellence.
Abbados Bruckner verbindet spätromantischen Melos mit kristalliner Durchhörbarkeit: ein Ereignis.
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Gleiches ließe sich über die 4. Symphonie im Vergleich zu der "legendären" Böhm-Aufnahme (...Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) was not the Brucknerian as were Eugen Jochum, Karl Bohm, Herbert Von Karajan, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, and Carl Schuricht for example. But Abbado's recordings are played with precision and forward motion and the sound engineers have good sound in Symphonies 1, 5 and 9 especially. Symphony 4 may have drier acoustics than Bruckner's "Cathedrals in sound" need. Perhaps 4 is a bit low level which can be adjusted by cranking up the volume.
I do not agree that Abbado's Bruckner 5 is a failure here; The VPO sound terrific and if tempos are a bit slower than some recordings in I and IV. I also enjoyed 9 and I have Karajan (DG), Jochum/ Dresden (EMI) and Mehta/Vienna (Decca) for comparison.
Alternatives: Symphony 1. Linz/Sieghart (Camerata), Karajan/Berlin (DG),
Barenboim/Chicago (DG). I liked this better than Abbado/Vienna (1968/Decca).
Symphony 4. Bohm/ Vienna (Decca),
Ormandy/Philadelphia (Sony), Karajan/Berlin (DG), Sieghart/ Linz (Camerata).
Symphony 5. Karajan/Berlin (DG)
Jochum (DG or EMI), Klemperer/Philharmonia (EMI).
Symphony 7. Karajan/ Berlin (EMI),
Eichhorn/ Linz (Camerata), Karajan/Vienna (DG).
Symphony 9. Walter/Columbia (Sony),
Karajan/Berlin (DG), Giulini/ Vienna (DG).
I echo Mogulmeister's review. Namely, that Abbado, in his Mendelssohn-with-ostinatos-approach, is unable to elicit anything other than picturesque notes from the scores. It was a chore to revisit this landlubber semi-cycle. If it never falls below a certain standard, that's damnation by faint praise. Nothing is inexplicable. One trembles not. God and the Devil fail to make an appearance. The Fifth Symphony, as performed here, is not a Causeway of the Giants - rather, it's a Lonely Planet's Guide to Salzburg (at best). Catastrophically, Uncle Claudio uses the Vienna edition of the First where Bruckner, madder than a cut snake, zombified the score. Simpson was right on the money; it does not matter who plays it: it's a travesty.
This diet-Bruckner does not supplant or even supplement Bruckner: 9 Symphonies [Box Set] in any way.
That being said, Abbado and the Berliners nailed the Ninth in a fire-and-brimstone performance from 1997 which you can find on YouTube. It's head and shoulders above this Sound of Music pap.
But to my ears, Abbado has never been even a little convincing in Bruckner. Having heard him conduct Bruckner in both recordings and live, in fact, I think he misses Bruckner by a mile. It seems to me that Abbado just is not attuned to Bruckner's unique world, and he doesn't convincingly put across Bruckner symphonies. It's hard to understand why he kept coming back to Bruckner, because Abbado seems to my ears to be one of those really talented conductors who unfortunately is "lost at sea" in Bruckner (and he has some exalted company--Klemperer, Solti, Szell, etc.)
So to put together a box set of a number of Abbado's Bruckner performances seems to me to be something that will be potentially of interest to the hardcore Abbado faithful who don't already have these performances--but not to anyone else. For those who are not primarily interested in Claudio Abbado but are rather interested in Anton Bruckner, please, save your money and time and go elsewhere (suggestions are below). You will be much happier.
I have not heard every performance in this set, but I've heard most of them, and none are worth returning to. He has the services of the estimable Vienna Philharmonic in most of these recordings (4,5,7,9), and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in the other (#1). Probably the best performance in this set is 7, although it is nowhere near a first-rank performance of that great symphony. I haven't heard the Lucerne #1 that is in this set, but for some unknown reason Abbado decided to record the revised "Vienna" version of this symphony rather than the much earlier "Linz" version which he had earlier recorded, and which is favored by most hardcore Brucknerians. In the words of one well-regarded Bruckner reviewer, "I think Bruckner shot himself in the foot with the Vienna revision." Put me firmly in the Linz camp. And with regards to #1, there is a definitive performance out there that makes listening to any other performances impossible: Eugen Jochum's performance with the Berlin Philharmonic on DG, an incendiary, trailblazing performance which is available as part of his first complete cycle on DG, or individually (BRUCKNER: SYM 1/TE DEUM).
One of the most difficult Bruckner symphonies for any conductor to "pull off" is #5. The line that runs through this lengthy, demanding, and emotionally sprawling symphony is interpretatively more challenging to delineate. In the hands of someone not highly attuned to its highly unique idiom (even within Bruckner's overall body of work), it comes off as shapeless, endless, and bloated. And that's a good description of Abbado's first recording of #5 with the Vienna Philharmonic, which is included in this set. His second recording (live) with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (not included in this set) fares better, but still falls significantly short of being a front-rank recommendation. When it comes to Bruckner's 5th, the best recordings are from Karajan (in his box set--a truly great performance), and Jochum's final recording of the symphony just months before he died from a live performance with the Concertgebouw (A. Bruckner: Symphony No. 5). Bruckner's 5th symphony is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but it requires a particularly skilled conductor who is completely inside the music to effectively put it across. But when that happens, there are few more moving pieces of music ever written by anyone. It's a challenging and demanding symphony, but the payoff is immense. It's arguably one of the highlights of Bruckner's body of work (and it was Jochum's favorite of the Bruckner symphonies). But the 5th is far from the best choice of entry for someone interested in trying out Bruckner. The best starting points are 7 and 4 (my favorite 7ths are from Simon Rattle/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Symphony 7), and Jochum's Berlin Philharmonic performance from his DG box set; my favorite 4ths are from Karajan's DG Berlin performance (in his box set) and Chailly's with the Concertgebouw Bruckner Symphony 4 / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Riccardo Chailly (London))).
So if not Abbado, where should someone interested in Bruckner's magnificent symphonies turn for a complete Bruckner set? That's easy, because there is an unambiguous first choice: Karajan's cycle of 1-9 with the Berlin Philharmonic (Bruckner: 9 Symphonies [Box Set]). Karajan's is the cycle for the ages. It is superlative in every way, and clearly, it is one of greatest recorded legacies in all of classical music. The playing of the Berliners has to be heard to be believed--it's consistently jaw-dropping. Karajan's interpretations are astonishing and completely revelatory. The direct channel to Bruckner has never been stronger. As a complete set, it just doesn't get any better than this and likely never will.
Jochum's first cycle on DG (as compared to his later Dresden cycle on EMI, now Warner Classics) is also outstanding. It delivers some incredible highs, but also a few clunkers (Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 9). While it does not in any way displace the Karajan, it's still outstanding overall (even with the clunkers) and mandatory listening (Jochum betters Karajan in 1 and 7). Every Bruckner lover will want both sets. No one has ever performed Bruckner's truly radical Symphony #1 as Jochum did (not even Karajan - #1 is the one "miss" in his set), and it alone is worth the price of admission. Jochum's performance of #1 transforms what many consider an immature early work into a formidable, overwhelming, and profoundly impactful piece of music that makes one understand how revolutionary a composer Bruckner truly was, and especially how truly radical a piece of music Symphony #1 is. [To this day, no one before, or since, has ever written another piece of music that's anything like it.] In Jochum's interpretation, Symphony #1 is a massive blast of energy whose shockwaves level everything in its path. At the conclusion, the symphony achieves an overwhelming transformation that's beyond moving, and which burns pure sunlight at the very end. Jochum's Berlin Philharmonic performance of #1 on DG is like nothing you've ever heard before by any composer. Jochum alone successfully reveals the greatness of this unmistakable masterpiece, even with its certain flaws.
Skrowaczewski's complete cycle is consistently strong, even if it doesn't reach the exalted heights of Karajan and Jochum (Complete Symphonies). But it's uniformly very good, and anyone learning their Bruckner from Skrow would be in good hands. But Skrow's orchestra is in the minor leagues as compared to the Berliners from Karajan's set (Jochum's set is split between the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, both of which are better than Skrow's orchestra). This is decidedly not the equal of either Karajan's or Jochum's sets.
The world lost a great conductor in Claudio Abbado. But while he was wonderful with many composers, unfortunately, Bruckner was not among them.