ANTON BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor “Wagner Symphony” (Version 1873) – Bamberger Symphony/Jonathan Nott – Tudor multichannel SACD 7133, 63:12 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The main problem with Bruckner’s symphonies is connected with the many versions. According to one critic, the effort to place Bruckner’s symphonies in the public eye has been overtaken by something approaching a “Babel of terminological confusion.” Bruckner scholars must deal with a mountain of very strongly defined opinions, seemingly impossible to surmount. Bruckner’s third is beset with more version problems than any of his other symphonies. The basis of this Swiss recording is the very first version of 1873, which was never performed during the composer’s lifetime.
There are several competitors on SACD to this recording of The Third. While the Gunther Wand Japanese SACD series doesn’t include the Third, we reviewed a fine version conducted by Rafael Kubelik on Audite (stereo only), as well as a good multichannel version conducted by Simone Young. The Kent Nagano SACD on Harmonia mundi also uses the same first version as the Tudor. (There will soon be a Mariss Janssons-conducted SACD of both the Third and Fourth on the RCO Live label.) I also compared this Tudor version with both the Wand and Bernard Haitink CD versions. The sonics were so thin on the Philips Haitink CD that frankly it distracted me from making any musical comparisons.
The unique feature of Bruckner’s symphonies is the way repetitive passages of constantly rising intensity evolve and spread like waves thru the fabric of a movement – their momentum finally building up into a tremendous thematic breakthru that is never less than thrilling. He mixes many different ingredients to achieve this. The familiar monumental style of Bruckner’s combines a slowed-down time span, extremes of dynamics, and massive orchestral writing – with pregnant pauses a major part of the metric structure.
The Wagner Symphony description attached to this work comes from a number of Wagnerian themes which Bruckner had quoted in the first version, before he presented it to his musical hero Wagner. Wagner sort of ignored the whole thing and eventually most of the quotes were excised from the score. (So why are we still calling it The Wagner Symphony?)
Jonathan Nott has been artistic director of the Bamberg Symphony for the past nine years and at the same time leads the Paris Ensemble Intercontemporain. He leads an exciting performance of The Third, which in turn is very well recorded by the Swiss engineers, working with the Bavarian radio staff. As with the symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner is made-to-order for hi-res multichannel reproduction.
– John Sunier