BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 / Nelsons

ANTON BRUCKNER

Symphony No. 4
WAGNER: Lohengrin - Prelude to Act 1
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Andris Nelsons
Int. Release 16 Feb. 2018
1 CD / Download
0289 479 7577 9


Track List

Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)
Lohengrin, WWV 75

Anton Bruckner (1824 - 1896)
Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major - "Romantic", WAB 104

Version 1878/1880

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Andris Nelsons

Total Playing Time 1:19:25

. . . a beautifully played [reading] . . .

This is the second instalment in the Bruckner symphony cycle that Andris Nelsons is making with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Last year I was impressed by the inaugural release in the series which featured the Third symphony. . . [the Gewandhausorchester plays] marvellously . . . Nelson's opening is impressive; the music is well paced and beautifully voiced. In the second group (2:34) he invests the music with grace and lightness of touch -- as he does whenever this material is revisited. It seems to me that he handles the transitions well. Bruckner is a composer to whom dynamic contrast matters hugely and this present performance certainly delivers that -- throughout the symphony, in fact. So, we hear exciting, blazing tuttis but the often spare-textured sections (for example 6:21-7:22) are very well presented. There's grandeur, too . . . the way this first movement ends in Leipzig: the concluding peroration sounds magnificent, the unison horns of the Gewandhausorchester ringing out thrillingly. At the start of the second movement Nelsons moulds the melodic line beautifully . . . Nelsons and his orchestra ravish the ear. As the movement unfolded I found that Nelsons carried me along with him; his conducting is highly persuasive and he sustains concentration admirably. It helps, of course, that we're treated to sovereign playing from the Gewandhausorchester. Here, and in the symphony's other movements, Nelsons controls the build-up to climaxes very well indeed and the climaxes themselves open out regally. The famous 'hunting' scherzo goes very well. The Leipzig brass blaze excitingly and also display plenty of athleticism. One has a real sense of the thrill of the chase. The 'hunting' sections are very exciting but the contrasting, gentle trio is equally successful. There's considerable refinement in the playing and it sounds for all the world as if our huntsmen have paused by a cooling stream to give their steeds a drink. But soon the hunt is up again and the chase resumes excitingly. As delivered by the Gewandhausorchester, the first great tutti in the finale is tremendously imposing and that description applies equally to all the similar passages in this movement . . . [last movement]: Nelsons leads the listener on very successfully. As in the first movement, Bruckner's dynamic contrasts are given full value . . . At 18:46 Nelsons reaches the start of the long build-up to the symphony's apotheosis. He controls these closing pages superbly; the music is pregnant with tension as the dynamics slowly build. The final pages are dominated, as they should be, by one last glorious outpouring of unforced majestic tone from the Leipzig brass choir. This is a very distinguished account of the 'Romantic' Symphony; I enjoyed it and admired it. It's to be a feature of this Bruckner cycle, I understand, that music by Wagner will furnish the couplings. Here the choice falls on the Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin, a very apt choice . . . It's a very good performance, well-paced and controlled by Nelsons. On repeated listening, my abiding memory is the richness of the Gewandhausorchester's brass and lower strings. The DG engineers have captured these performances in sound that both complements and does full justice to the music and to the burnished tones of the Gewandhausorchester. This is a fine addition to Andris Nelsons' Brucker cycle and I look forward keenly to the next instalment, which brings the Seventh symphony.

This is the second instalment in the Bruckner symphony cycle that Andris Nelsons is making with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and all the signs are that this will be a modern cycle of distinction, despite the youth of the conductor; there is no indication of Nelsons lacking the maturity or experience to do justice to Bruckner's symphonies . . . The modern Leipzig orchestra makes a more homogenised sound than of yore but what a beautiful sound it is. Everything seems right in this first movement: the opening string tremolando is full of contained tension, the horn mellow, the development urgent and propulsive, before Nelsons relaxes into the bucolic second subject at just the right tempo. He has the gift of creating a sense of drama and expectation without resorting to bombast or agogic distortion, Tutti passages blaze with conviction and the climactic chorale ten minutes in is simply magnificent, contrasting with the wistful, searching passage which immediately succeeds it . . . [2nd movement]: Nelsons moulds phrases beautifully and the orchestra's soft playing ravishes the ear. The return if the first subject nine minutes in is magical; the melody slides and as it is handed from one instrumental group to another over a cushion of pizzicato strings allows each to demonstrate its virtuosity at low volume. The contrast with the weighty, majestic climax of the movement is telling -- this is great playing and conducting . . . The finale can fragment under direction which is too impulsive or erratic but Nelsons maintains a long view, keeping his powder dry for the drive toward final apotheosis without ever sacrificing tension. The great waves and lulls in the music come and go, and the listener is uniformly gripped throughout by Nelsons' ability to link one section to another. The concluding three minutes of the final movement constitute one of the most thrilling and glorious passages in all Bruckner; Nelsons triumphantly unveils its mystery and power, building inexorably with a sure touch and a mounting sense of the numinous. This is undoubtedly one of the best accounts of this symphony ever recorded and certainly the finest of recent years.

Ici reconnaissons à Andris Nelsons, la continuité d'un travail passionnant réalisé avec le Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, familier par ailleurs du répertoire symphonique germanique . . . Reconnaissons d'emblée que la sûreté du geste, la clarté de la vision, et surtout la richesse et la cohésion de la sonorité de l'orchestre voisinne avec les meilleurs parmi le top 5 d'Allemagne: le Berliner Phil., le Radio Bavaroise, le Dresden, le Berliner Staatsoper . . . Un travail étonnant en maîtrise et intelligence intérieure obtenue en proportion avec un travailleur forcené qui dirige aussi le Boston Symphony orchestra . . . [après la 3è Symphonie] cette Symphonie n°4 de Bruckner ne démérite en rien: au contraire, les qualités de cohésion interne, d'énergie architecturée, de lisibilité voire de transparence de la matière orchestrale, malgré ses contrastes par vagues submersives et l'ambition des effectifs requis . . . la lecture saisie sur le vif (Live recording) confirme l'aisance du maestro Nelsons comme architecte et prophète: exigeant, cultivant le détail comme le souffle . . . Nelsons aime l'efficacité mais aussi la fidélité au texte originel, reconnaissant ainsi à Bruckner, l'artisan dit rustre, une évidente intelligence de bâtisseur . . . Rien ne nuit ni n'empêche la fabuleuse activité de l'orchestre où perce l'élégie incisive, individualisée des fabuleux solos instrumentaux . . . notons la couleur nuancée mélancolique de l'Andante, moins endeuillé que songeur voire énigmatique; l'énergie cynégétique du Scherzo, celui réécrit par Bruckner, doué d'une inspiration très programmatique mais saisissante par sa flamboyance contrastée; enfin, l'équilibre et la résolution qui ordonne dans une aisance souveraine, le finale, dont le portique dernier donne la mesure de l'imaginaire mystique de Bruckner: un Hosanna miraculeux dont Nelsons nous fait entendre la légèreté et l'élan irrépressible. Voici la preuve nouvelle que Nelsons est bien un brucknérien de première qualité. A suivre, car le cycle Bruckner à Leipzig devrait ainsi se poursuivre. Le Prélude de "Lohengrin" joué en lever de rideau pour ce récital symphonique, semble envisager les éthers célestes que Bruckner parvient à rejoindre lui aussi en une prière lente, solennelle, majestueuse et parsemée de stations, noires et sombres, pastorales et lumineuses. Itinéraire passionnant.

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