Symphony No.3 in D minor (1877 version edited Nowak) Wagner
Lohengrin Preludes to Acts 1 & 3
SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg
CD No: Hänssler CD 93.031 Duration: 67 minutes Reviewed: May 2002
Bruckner 3 - Michael Gielen
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Michael Gielens continuing journey through Bruckners symphonies reaches No.3. (Symphonies 4, 5 and 7-9, the Fourth in its original version, have previously been available on Intercord; hopefully Hänssler will re-issue these.) Recorded in 1999, Gielens reading of No.3 is marked by thrilling impetuosity and architectural soundness. His use of the 1877 version as edited by Leopold Nowak means, among other things, that we hear closing bars to the Scherzo which Bruckner wanted suppressed (Fritz Oeser, the other main editor of the 1877 version, respects Bruckners wishes). The direct CD competition, in terms of chosen edition, is Haitink (his second recording, he used Oeser first time round), Harnoncourt and Solti.
Gielens is a plain-speaking account. It may not be for those who wish to have suggested mountaintops shrouded in mist or mysterious secluded forests. It is though a clear-sighted, texturally-relieved traversal (aided by antiphonal violins) always at one with the length and breadth of the musical text and with no lack of repose when it is really needed.
The recording is immediate, a little dry and a tad raw and theres a poor edit at 7 00 in the first movement. It is also an engrossing performance, one vital and detailed. Theres a fabulous account of the Scherzo, vigorous and rhythmically buoyant with some nodal blazing for added value; the Ländler Trio is delightfully springy and decorous. However, Gielen slides through the polka episode of the Finale somewhat diffidently, which is fine for the trombones legato harmonic progression if not the dance itself; except, theres a sneaking suspicion that Gielen is absolutely right!
Overall, this is a fundamentally good performance with a lithe and fiery Finale with unfamiliar aspects revealed such as the trumpets repeated notes between 7 09-7 17. If this symphony is more compact under Gielen than some other conductors, there is no lack of gravitas or any loss of imploring expression in the slow movement. This may not be Gielen quite at his best, but there are many perceptions to confirm him as probably the most underrated of the great conductors in a recording preferable to the crude Solti and the rather too agreeable Harnoncourt. Haitink (Philips) is an all-round recommendation, while Gielen is his own man with many illuminations to share along the way.
The Lohengrin preludes (1992) are respectively seamless and measured (that to Act 3 no cheap showpiece for Gielen).
The Bruckner 3 picture is only complete by knowing the original version (1873) and the second revision Tintner (Naxos) for the former, Böhm (Decca) and Celibidache (DG and EMI) for 1889. For 1877/Oeser, ideally Kubeliks CBS (i.e. pre-Sony) taping should still be available (Sinopolis DG is gone too), though Dohnányi (Decca) uses Oeser integral for 1877/Nowak are Haitink and Gielen.