BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E-flat (1978/80, Novak) – Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/ Herbert Blomstedt – Querstand multichannel SACD VKJK 1081, 67:05 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
With Symphonies 3, 7, and 8 already in the can, it looks like this new 4, with No. 5, might herald a complete set. This is I believe Blomstedt’s third recording of the work, once with the San Francisco Symphony, once with the Dresden Staatskapelle, each favorably received though the Dresden gets the nod in many quarters. I can’t say that this one surpasses either of those except that the sound is surely an improvement. Blomstedt uses the Novak 1953, which means the second version of the work, one that Bruckner engaged on his own and really felt the need to pursue—the later ones may have suffered from too much peer pressure and the desire for publication. Whatever the reason the second is certainly one of the regularly established versions, the scherzo completely new and the finale extensively revised.
Blomstedt’s approach is measured, fundamental, and traditionally-oriented in its building-block excursion from the low notes up; there is always a fine balance and huge organ sonority in every movement, and his tempos reflect that philosophy. It’s not the most exciting I have heard—strangely enough I think that Sawallisch/Philadelphia and Masur/New York surpass him in that department. And it doesn’t have the ethereal beauty of the classic Bohm either, still the greatest ever recorded. But he does offer a magnificent sonic experience in terms that are easily acceptable and readily appreciated.
This is a delightful holiday collection.