Bruckner - Symphonies
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan
DG Karajan Symphony Edition 477 7580GB9 Buy now
(8h 40’ · ADD/DDD)
Symphonies – No 1 in C minor; No 2 in C minor; No 3 in D minor; No 4 in E flat, ‘Romantic’; No 5 in B flat; No 6 in A; No 7 in E; No 8 in C minor; No 9 in D minor Symphonies – Nos 1 (Linz version), 2, 3 (1889 version, ed Nowak), 4-7, 8 (ed Haas) & 9
Karajan’s understanding of the slow but powerful currents that flow beneath the surfaces of symphonies like the No 5 or Nos 7‑9 has never been bettered, but at the same time he shows how much more there is to be reckoned with: strong emotions, a deep poetic sensitivity (a Bruckner symphony can evoke landscapes as vividly as Mahler or Vaughan Williams) and a gift for singing melody that at times rivals even Schubert. It hardly needs saying that there’s no such thing as a perfect record cycle, and Karajan’s collection of the numbered Bruckner symphonies (unfortunately he never recorded ‘No 0’) has its weaknesses. The early First and Second Symphonies can be a little heavy-footed and, as with so many Bruckner sets, there’s a suspicion that more time might have been spent getting to know the fine but elusive Sixth. However, none of these performances is without its major insights, and in the best of them – particularly Nos 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 – those who haven’t stopped their ears to Karajan will find that whatever else he may have been, there was a side to him that could only be described as ‘visionary’. As for the recordings: climaxes can sound a touch overblown in some of the earlier symphonies, but overall the image is well focused and atmospheric. A valuable set, and a landmark in the history of Bruckner recording.