Review - Bruckner ‘From the Archives, Vol 2’ (Somm)

Rob Cowan
Friday, June 14, 2024

What makes the set unmissable is van Beinum’s outstanding performance of ‘Die Nullte’

Last month, in the context of reviewing Somm’s ‘Bruckner: From the Archives, Vol 1’, I anticipated exciting things to come, though nothing quite like Eduard van Beinum’s take on the Symphony in D minor known as ‘No 0’ or ‘Die Nullte’ – an electrifying 1955 performance that less anticipates Bernard Haitink (who recorded the piece) than looks back at Willem Mengelberg (who didn’t). Note the marked string portamentos at the beginning of the finale and the blazing excitement elsewhere, the orchestra sounding as if it’s on fire. Never have I heard a performance that even approaches van Beinum’s for conviction, spontaneity and pinpoint precision. Prior to the ‘nullified’ symphony, Somm offers us the seraphic-sounding Choir of St Hedwig’s Cathedral, Berlin, with the Berlin Philharmonic in the Mass No 2 in E minor (a 1956 Electrola recording), a setting for eight-part mixed choir and 15 wind instruments, which, given Bruckner’s posthumous knack for attracting oddball names, might be dubbed the ‘Bandstand’ Mass. The heavily contrapuntal Gloria is especially impressive.

The second disc is occupied with a 1962 recording of the Second Symphony, a vigorous performance by the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra under Georg Ludwig Jochum, who had previously recorded the work with the Reichs-Bruckner Orchestra of Linz in 1944. The two performances are fairly similar, but from roughly the same period (1956) I’d rather put my money on a broader, more tellingly observed reading by the SWR Orchestra Baden-Baden under Hans Rosbaud. Still, viewed overall, Somm’s package is of great musical value, but what makes the set unmissable is van Beinum’s outstanding performance of ‘Die Nullte’. Transfers, annotations and presentation are typically impeccable.

This feature originally appeared in the July 2024 issue of Gramophone. Never miss an issue of the world's leading classical music magazine – subscribe to Gramophone today

Gramophone Print

  • Print Edition

From £6.67 / month


Gramophone Digital Club

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive
  • Reviews Database
  • Full website access

From £8.75 / month



If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.