BRUCKNER Symphony No 3 WAGNER Tannhäuser Overture
This first instalment of a new Bruckner series by Andris Nelsons and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for DG couples the Third Symphony with Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture. In an interview in the booklet, Nelsons discusses the influence of Wagner on Bruckner’s music, although in fact the shorter 1889 version of the symphony recorded here omits the quotations from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and Tristan found in earlier versions of the score, leaving only the reference to the ‘magic sleep’ motif from Die Walküre intact near the end of the Adagio.
As a Bruckner interpreter, Nelsons is direct, clear-sighted and spacious, the performance guided with a sure hand and a sense of inevitability but also meticulous in observing tempo and dynamic markings. The attention to dynamic levels is especially impressive, Bruckner’s frequent juxtapositions of loud and soft presented with unfailing accuracy and musicality without giving the impression of being self-conscious or mannered. Phrasing and balance also sound effortlessly natural, not surprising from an orchestra whose extensive Bruckner tradition includes recorded cycles under Masur and Blomstedt. The easy charm of the Gewandhaus playing in the Trio of the Scherzo is a particular delight. The reading as a whole provides a complementary experience to the lean and intense recording of the 1889 edition recorded by Karajan.
Many of the qualities heard in the Bruckner also inform Nelsons’s performance of the Tannhäuser Overture, heard here in its shorter form without the Venusberg music. The warmth and sonority of the playing at the start is enthralling and the performance unfolds with character and excitement. DG’s sound for both works has a pleasing combination of weight and clarity despite the complications of live recording, and audience noise has been edited out.