BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E Major – Vienna Symphony/Otto Klemperer – Testament SBT 1459, 60:24 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Taped 26 February 1958 at the Musikverein, Vienna, this performance of the Bruckner Seventh derives from a concert series “The Great Symphonies.” A spirit of healthy determination pervades this strong interpretation, the orchestra intent on conveying at once the muscular drive and panoramic expansiveness of the conductor’s vision. The Bruckner Seventh had, for Klemperer, become a much-traveled spiritual companion and calling card, the alternately massive and lyrical periods balanced by a taut sense of ineluctable architecture. The first movement’s serpentine, martial atmosphere achieves great mass and introspective melancholy, then seeks some bucolic refuge from its own transcendental urges. The doors of Bruckner’s personal Valhalla swing open at the movement’s layered conclusion, though the victory has its own ambivalence as well.
The C-sharp Minor Adagio moves relatively briskly at moments, but then it basks in Bruckner’s chromatic lines with a warmth from the low strings and tubas that defies verbal translation. We know that Bruckner meant the chorale-dirge as a kind of homage to Parsifal and the Wagner sonorities provide a “funeral march for the master.” The degree of dynamic control Klemperer exerts in the diaphanous coda quite has the audience in thrall. The ostinati strings and trumpet fanfares of the Scherzo revive our associations with Wagner’s Valkyries, here assuaged by rustic impulses and the blatantly romantic laendler of the trio section. The da capo returns even more inflamed than at first, the tympani, strings, and woodwinds quite wound to a fever pitch. The finale opens with earmarks of the first movement, but its originally playful tone cedes to a solemnly lyrical hymn followed by Wagnerian aggression. Like the Master’s opera Tannhauser, the Bruckner symphony finale rages between yearnings for pious devotion and more carnal ramblings of the spirit, perhaps even convulsive brassy theatrics. Once Klemperer catches the pendulum tempo for his horns as he approaches the intricate coda, the fierce inevitability of the vaulted final pages becomes a foregone conclusion, the strings imploring, the horns demanding, that self-same Urlicht that often besieged Bruckner’s manic colleague, Mahler.
— Gary Lemco
Brendel plays Liszt – Studio Recordings, 1955 – 1958 – Pristine Audio
Wagner, Verdi, Weber, Liszt… and Brendel!