- The Fascinating Paradox of Anton Bruckner [Recommended Recordings]
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Anton Bruckner
Recommended Recordings

Bruckner: Mass No.3 in f
(Margaret Price, Doris Soffel, et al.; Munich Philharmonic; Sergiu Celibidache, conductor )
By the time of his death in 1996, Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache--who had disdained the technology of recording-- was the focus of a veritable cult of music fans on one side and vehement detractors on the other. His extremely personal interpretations preclude a reaction of indifference. This new series of EMI releases presents the conductor's visionary way with Bruckner, a composer for whom he had a deep affinity: it's particularly evident in the spacious breath and transporting spirituality of Bruckner's great Mass in F Minor that Celibidache communicates.

Bruckner: Symphony No.1
(Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Georg Tintner)
The early Bruckner symphonies are still largely uncharted territory for concert audiences, but this new recording of the First Symphony with the late Georg Tintner leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra should make new fans for this fascinating work. Naxos bills it as the "world premiere recording" of the unrevised Linz version, edited by Haas/Carragan, which is true as far as it goes. Only dyed-in-the-wool Bruckner fanatics have ever cared much about the edition used, and this 1866 version differs in only small ways from the better-known 1877 one.

But the real value here is Tintner's exuberant reading of this "cheeky little minx" of a symphony (Bruckner's words). The distinctive Bruckner sonority is evident from the start, but the vitality, even playfulness, of this piece sets it apart from its fellows, and even an aged Tintner revels in it. As a "filler," the 1873 version of the Adagio from the Third Symphony is equally engrossing.

Bruckner: Symphony No.8
(Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Pierre Boulez, conductor)
Pierre Boulez conducts Bruckner? Hard to believe, but the conductor did it and, boy, did he do it right. This recording of the Eighth seems to have it all: great pacing, great playing, and an incredible soundstage, with warm acoustics that you'll just want to blast through your stereo system. If you've been intimidated by Boulez's modernist reputation, this disc will change your view.

Mass in D minor, Te Deum
(Keith Lewis, Alastair Miles, et al; Corydon Orchestra, Corydon Singers; Matthew Best, conductor)
This extremely impressive disc contains music from the beginning and the end of Bruckner's composing career. The Te Deum is one of five great 19th-century settings of the text (the others are by Haydn, Berlioz, Verdi, and Dvorák). In form it follows a pattern similar to Haydn's, though on a much larger scale; but musically it's unique. Bruckner's preference for unison melody and modal harmony make the piece sound like a huge Gregorian chant for chorus with orchestral accompaniment. The piece was an instant success at its first performance (it blew Mahler away), and it hasn't looked back since. The Mass No. 1 is an earlier score but also a work of deep sincerity and warmth. Performances are really good, and the recording captures the organ part in the Te Deum particularly well. (review by David Hurwitz)


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