Symphony No.7 in E [Nowak Edition]
COVIELLO CLASSICS 30405 [including dts-encoded 5.1 channel surround-CD]
Symphony No.8 in C minor [1890 Version; Haas Edition]
COVIELLO CLASSICS 30301 [including dts-encoded 5.1 channel surround-CD]
Aachen Symphony Orchestra
Marcus R. Bosch
Recorded live in St Nikolaus Church, Aachen, Germany 9 June 2003 (Symphony No.8) and 31 May 2004
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2005
CD No: See above
Duration: See above
If neither the label nor the conductor and orchestra are familiar, this is no reason not to investigate these two strong and resplendent accounts – even the most seasoned of Brucknerians will surely sit up and take notice. What is especially compelling is the utter dedication of these musicians on behalf of Bruckner’s music; these are genuinely sympathetic and new-minted (live) performances.
Marcus R. Bosch (born 1969) is Music Director in Aachen (Karajan was there for a time) and is, on the strength of these two performances, a Bruckner conductor of real distinction and perception, one who adroitly balances the structural and emotional processes of Bruckner’s invention and inspires his musicians to give heartfelt and committed renditions. The glow of these versions has something to do with the acoustic of the church of St Nikolaus, which adds vibrancy to what seems (from the pictures in the CD booklets) and sounds like an orchestra a few desks short in the strings (or, maybe, some members are missing due to space limitations). Yet while there is sometimes a homespun rather than international feel to the playing, few allowances have to be made in the face of such spirited and understanding music-making.
Bosch himself is alive to the design and detail of the music and favours forward-moving tempos; there’s no rush, though, rather a natural sense of direction and resolution sustains both symphonies. In particular, Bosch has a keen eye and ear for Bruckner’s small print; these performances are very thoroughly rehearsed and yet retain a spontaneous, ink-still-wet quality. The musicians of the Aachen Symphony are very responsive and characterful – solo lines leap from the texture with confidence. The church acoustic brings the elements together – there’s an ambience that seems just right for the music, one that is complementary and expansive but without smudging lines; and Bosch doesn’t allow the (4-second) reverberation period to be an integral part of his interpretations; that is, he doesn’t extend silent bars to accommodate all the resonance.
Bosch is especially adept at building and releasing tension and in seeing both symphonies whole while being fluid to ‘episodes’. Symphony No.7 is luminous and flowing while No.8 is direct and urgent, flexible, and especially alive in the Adagio to emotional incident. The booklet states no edition for No.7, but as Bosch includes percussion at the Adagio’s climax he in line with Nowak, and he opts for Robert Haas’s editing of the 1890 version of No.8; in that symphony’s Adagio, Haas’s longer text is dispatched in a ‘mere’ 23 minutes – yet without sounding hasty; indeed the state of impulsive flux seems totally convincing.
The recording of No.7 is excellent, beautifully judged in capturing both the orchestra and the space it is playing in; No.8 is slightly less impressive in that dynamics are initially rather handicapped and the orchestra is a little too distant; that said, the climaxes of the Adagio open out gloriously and the players, by now, are given a more tangible perspective. (Both releases include a “dts-encoded 5.1 channel surround-CD”. Not playable on a CD machine, it seems, I did anyway! Both in fact did play and reproduced ‘white noise’. An expert colleague, responding to my query, advised: “Your audio CD player should not really have been able to make noisy nonsense of the DVD disc. There must be something wayward with the coding on the disc.”) The CDs are just fine!
It seems that these are one-off unedited performances; if so, despite the odd happenstance moment (and what sounds like one rather than composer’s requested three harps in the 8th), there is much here that is admirable. Certainly, come the close of both performances, the feeling is that an important journey has been undertaken and has been summated with purpose, fresh thoughts and new life. Rather special, in fact.