Symphony No.3 in D minor (1877 version edited Nowak)
Lohengrin Preludes to Acts 1 & 3
SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2002
CD No: Hänssler CD 93.031
Duration: 67 minutes
Michael Gielen’s continuing journey through Bruckner’s 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, Gielen’s 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 Bruckner’s wishes). The direct CD competition, in terms of chosen edition, is Haitink (his second recording, he used Oeser first time round), Harnoncourt and Solti.
Gielen’s 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 there’s a poor edit at 7’ 00” in the first movement. It is also an engrossing performance, one vital and detailed. There’s 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, there’s 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 Kubelik’s CBS (i.e. pre-Sony) taping should still be available (Sinopoli’s DG is gone too), though Dohnányi (Decca) uses Oeser … integral for 1877/Nowak are Haitink and Gielen.