Bruckner 4/Tennstedt

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.4 in E flat (Romantic) [Edition by Robert Haas]

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Klaus Tennstedt

Recorded in the Royal Festival Hall, London on 14 December 1989

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: September 2006
CD No: LPO – 0014
Duration: 71 minutes

This large-scale, very public and also very private account of Bruckner’s ‘Romantic’ Symphony – in a live performance that is caught on the wing – begins on the merest wisp of sound. Floating above this is fine and evocative horn solo. The first movement is powerfully suggestive and volatile and is revealed with trenchancy, fantasy and enquiry. Klaus Tennstedt’s burning conviction for the music is reciprocated by the London Philharmonic in a rendition that is not afraid to squeeze every possibility of expression out of the score but in a way that is neither mawkish or inorganic. Woodlands and mountains are vividly conjured – man’s relationship with nature, whether awesome or contemplative; throughout a sense of searching and arriving is compelling and must have been tremendous in the Hall on the night.

The second movement (termed Andante in the London Philharmonic’s presentation; it should be Andante quasi allegretto) is solemn and pensive and the scherzo is pushed along – a bit too much, maybe, but it’s tremendously exciting and fiery – the LPO required to fit all the notes in the concentrated space provided, which is achieved with aplomb; the trio is full of repose, melodies blissfully shaped without threatening the design.

The finale, broadly paced, without approaching the ‘adagio’ approach that Robert Simpson advocated for this movement, is full of wonderment and resounds with impulses that are vividly alive – Tennstedt includes the very effective if dubious cymbal clash in the first climax (as did Furtwängler, Eugen Jochum and Karajan, and which Robert Haas wouldn’t have claimed in his edition) – and concludes with a coda both deep and triumphant, something held in reserve for the final ascent.

This is a transcendental performance. The sound has more depth of field than was actually the case in the Royal Festival Hall and thus some immediacy is lost; and the re-mastering is good – not always the case with this series, but here, thank goodness, there is no tainting of timbres. What a difference it makes in appreciating what is a mighty and considerable performance. That said, if the sound is a little contained in the mightiest fortissimos, then the brass still has a fine glint. Admirers of Bruckner and Tennstedt shouldn’t hesitate.

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