BRUCKNER Symphony No 1. 3 Pieces for Orchestra
Should a composer’s final thoughts be considered definitive? It’s a question that often arises in connection with the works of Bruckner, and in particular the First Symphony, a composition which both musicians and listeners tend to prefer in its earlier ‘Linz’ incarnation rather than in the revised version Bruckner prepared in Vienna in 1890 91. The Vienna version, incorporating elements of Bruckner’s later style, is considered by some as being stylistically incongruous and by most as a totally unnecessary exercise. However, it’s an endeavour to which Bruckner dedicated a year of his life and, unlike the frequently played 1889 version of the Third Symphony, is entirely the composer’s own work, unsullied by questionable advice from well-meaning friends and admirers.
Given the relatively small number of recordings of the Vienna version in comparison with the Linz, this spirited new version by the Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno, a former principal percussionist with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, is therefore a welcome addition to the catalogue. The playing of the Luxembourg Philharmonic, of which Gimeno has been music director since 2015, lacks something in finesse, and the recording has a touch of rawness in climaxes. However, Gimeno’s interpretation is pleasingly unaffected and he communicates a genuine affection for the piece, culminating in a particularly exciting performance of the finale.
The March in D minor and Three Pieces for orchestra from 1862 were composed during Bruckner’s studies with Kitzler in 1862 and are notable for being his first purely orchestral works. Sometimes known by the collective title of Four Orchestral Pieces, as on this recording, they are pleasant but reveal little of Bruckner’s mature style. Indeed, the Psalm 146 from a few years earlier demonstrates a considerably greater degree of imagination and individuality. However, the pieces are recorded only very occasionally and the fine performances on this disc are a welcome bonus.