BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E Major – Champs-Elysées Orchestra/Philippe Herreweghe – Harmonia mundi

by | Jul 10, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E Major – Champs-Elysées Orchestra/
Philippe Herreweghe – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMC 801857,
59:54 ****:

The earlier standard CD version of this disc was impressive even though
it ran the risk of sounding a bit underpowered due to it being the
first recording of the work employing period instruments (since its
premiere that is).  Now in glorious surround sound that is no
longer a problem.  And Bruckner benefits from surround
reproduction just as much as does Mahler. Don’t concern yourself about
wirey-sounding strings etc.  This is not an 18th century period
orchestra but merely some earlier versions of the brass and winds whose
timbres conductor Herreweghe contribute a better picture of what
Bruckner intended. He also uses 20th century Wagner tubas and
contrabass tubas to give the work plenty of low end support. The main
change is probably the use of gut strings in the string section which
he finds achieves a better balance with the less powerful period wind
instruments. This produces a richer string sound even though the
strings are not as inflated in number as in most modern Bruckner
performances.

As with most of the Bruckner symphonies, an overall melancholic aura
pervades the work.  Its gentle orchestration seems similar to
Wagner’s Parsifal in having a theme of salvation.  Wagner was of
course Bruckner’s hero, and although he had already completed the
symphony when word came of Wagner’s death, Bruckner said the coda to
the symphony was funeral music for the controversial musical
dramatist.  The frequent almost minimalist repetition of phrases
in the symphony seem to work better in this scaled-down and more
authentic performance than in the usual modern full symphonic
portrayal.  They modulate or transform in some way just short of
the point where one is almost ready to say Uncle.  Mozart had a
similar way to knowing exactly how many times to repeat something –
never ceased too early or going one time too many.

This is a magnificent recording, showing that a French orchestra can
equal or outdo Germanic forces in the interpretation of the symphonies
of the modest and religious little Austrian. 

– John Sunier

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