BRUCKNER Symphony No 3 (Schaller)
Gerd Schaller has made something of a speciality of performing rarely heard or forgotten Bruckner scores. This new recording of the Third Symphony (which is not included in Profil’s recently released 18-disc compilation of Schaller’s Bruckner recordings) features the version supervised by Bruckner’s pupil and champion Josef Schalk and published by Rättig in 1890. Although almost never encountered these days, this was the only version of the symphony known to musicians and audiences for six decades, and was regularly performed by conductors such as Knappertsbusch, Schuricht and Szell well into the 1960s.
The published edition of 1890 is of dubious authenticity, however. Although Bruckner’s 1889 manuscript contains amendments in the finale made by Josef Schalk’s younger brother Franz, these are changes that the composer chose to retain as part of a thorough overhaul of the symphony. For this reason, the 1889 score of the Third Symphony is regarded as a legitimate document by Bruckner scholars and is regularly performed and recorded. The 1890 version, however, has revised dynamic and tempo markings, additional instrumental lines and a large number of slurs, none of which are attributable to Bruckner. Given the availability of more authentic options, I’m not sure what justification there is for performing the 1890 score.
Fortunately, the differences between the 1889 and 1890 scores are relatively minor in practice. Indeed, many of the modifications sound like the sort of differences normally heard in interpretations of the same work by different performers. Conversely, anyone familiar with the 1889 version might assume the unfamiliar dynamic swelling of the brass heard at 11'19" in the first movement is a feature in the 1890 score but it is in fact an element of Schaller’s performance. As it happens, such interpretative quirks are unusual with this conductor. Schaller knows how to sustain the listener’s interest while maintaining fidelity to the score, and how to encourage refined and sonorous playing from the orchestra. Sanderling’s distinguished 1963 account of the same score with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra has a degree more intensity and mystery, but the recording has a trace of distortion in climaxes. By contrast, Profil’s recording offers excellent sound, presenting the orchestra with an attractive sheen and allowing textural detail to be clearly heard despite the six-second reverberation of Ebrach Abbey.