Symphony No.3 in D minor [1889 version, edited Leopold Nowak]
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded September 2012 in Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2014
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL
Duration: 60 minutes
Surprisingly this release seems only available in Germany and Japan. It’s better than good and deserves wider currency. Lorin Maazel has been a consistent champion of Bruckner’s music for many decades, and he first recorded the Third Symphony towards the end of the 1960s with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and then, thirty years on, for Bavarian Radio (also Munich, of course). Maazel’s latest version, recorded at concerts (and with a nice bit of audience hubbub to set the scene before a note is sounded) is singularly impressive, weighty, powerful and deeply expressed, and superbly recorded with clarity and opulence in a natural acoustic, the dynamic range wide. If, in the first movement, Maazel lingers in the slower music he does so without losing the line, and often there is a thrilling impetus to proceedings as well as a stirring majesty. One might query (these days in an enlightened response to Bruckner editions) the use of the final version but it’s the one that Maazel has always conducted and his experience of it is evident throughout this admirable, compelling, finely prepared and responsively played account. In particular the richness and the interaction of the string sections is noteworthy, not least in the first movement, and there is plenty of passion in the slow one, as well as inward tenderness, some pathos, and a hint of Tristan und Isolde (originally this was a ‘Wagner’ Symphony, with numerous quotations, a tribute to Bruckner’s great idol).
The scherzo goes with a swing and punchy accents, the Ländler trio nicely sprung and tangy if without quite the grace of Karl Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic (Decca), and in the finale, although surging forth victoriously, Maazel’s heavy accents in the polka are somewhat disproportionate. Nevertheless the rest of the movement is full of striving, of the agony and ecstasy that is Bruckner’s trademark, something given full vent by Maazel and Münchner Philharmoniker (a wonderful Bruckner orchestra during the tenure of Celibidache, and still sounding ripe and very much ‘inside’ the music). The final bars, very measured, are rousing and applause is retained (understandably given the music reaches such triumph). With a recording that avoids harshness even in the loudest passages and consistently ensures a full bass line, this performance is well-worth seeking out, either from the countries where it’s at or no-doubt a downloadable option is available. Maazel has since set-down Bruckner 7 and 8 in Munich, which hopefully will find themselves under Classical Source scrutiny soon.