BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christian Thielemann -Sony 19439861382 (3/4/21) 59:00 ****:
B08XLCCYXZ That Bruckner’s Third Symphony endured much transformation after its disastrous1877 first performance in Vienna has become common parlance. Already a victim of chronic insecurity, Bruckner revised selected portions and movements for a period of seventeen years, conscious that his so-called “Wagner Symphony” suffered from lapses in construction and continuity, and perhaps an overdose of Beethoven Ninth structural similarities and of Wagner opera allusions. Still, the Symphony, and especially its opening movement, Gemäßigt, mehr bewegt, misterioso, indulges in ostinatos, broad periods, church modes, trumpet fanfares, bucolic reminiscences, mighty crescendos, and intimate pianissimos.
The contemporary Bruckner conductor has to decide whether to emulate those past masters, Furtwangler, Knappertsubusch, and Celibidache and opt for grandly arched vistas or propel the music forward in order to conceal its lapses in tension, like Karajan and Rosbaud. Thielemann rides a middle course, luxuriating in the Vienna Philharmonic’s robust choirs in strings and brass, making of the A Major crescendo a thing of regal beauty. The polyphonic Andante in E-flat Major has its own mercurial shifts of mood and scale, here retaining a moment from Wagner’s Tannhauser that perhaps means to provide a tension between earthly and spiritual ideals.
Thielemann’s Scherzo exhibits some deft handling of swirling textures, with an airy, assured manipulation of the ostinato pulsations on D and A. The Trio section basks in countrified lilts and concessions to Austrian laendler, with a warm glow between the violins and violas. The da capo, alternately pompous and delicately lyrical, achieves a hushed sense of expectation before returning to the final statement of the brassy march, which seems to adumbrate the music from Ron Goodwin for the film Where Eagles Dare. Bruckner’s Finale concedes much to the late-Romantic call to cyclic form, invoking the means of the first movement, which Thielemann addresses with a sense of restraint. The secondary tune, Langamer (dolce) has due warmth and Austrian flavor, but it lacks the mirth that Knappertsbusch injects into the mix. Thielemann wants this music to bear the weight of mysticism, and the slowness of his progression may not work for some connoisseurs of this score. The so-called “majestic momentum” of the flow of ideas seems singularly self-conscious, the sudden shifts in mode and texture desultory and random. Still, the sheer girth and power of the Vienna Philharmonic, aided in this recording (27, 29 November 2020) by Recording Producer Florian Rosensteiner, makes a lushly virile impression for Bruckner’s Third, his “breakthrough” opus that clearly established his symphonic persona.
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