BRUCKNER Symphony No 6 (Ballot)
Rémy Ballot’s Bruckner recordings for Gramola (Symphonies Nos 3, 8 and 9) have thus far been notable for emulating the extremely broad tempos favoured by Celibidache in his later years. Interestingly, Celibidache chose a more mainstream approach for his interpretation of the Sixth Symphony and, by coincidence or design, so does Ballot in this performance from the 2016 Brucknertage. Although this is still a very spacious interpretation, the pacing of the symphony’s faster music is appropriate to the reverberant acoustic of St Florian and slower sections are nurtured with sensitivity and warmth. Few passages sound slow in the context of the performance as a whole, and the result has an inner logic and consistency that’s very compelling.
It’s perhaps not surprising that the Adagio responds well to Ballot’s slow tempo but it’s the finale that’s the highlight of this recording. Ballot eclipses not only Celibidache but also most other conductors in this sometimes problematic movement, adroitly navigating Bruckner’s playful subversion of sonata form while conveying the music’s boisterousness and lyricism with considerable feeling. The passage at fig N in the development (8'12") is wonderfully moving here and the symphony joyously concludes with a satisfying combination of weight and power.
The players of the Upper Austrian Youth Symphony Orchestra, averaging 18 years old, deliver playing that’s deeply felt, albeit missing some of the precision a more experienced orchestra would bring, and the recording is impressively transparent given the venue’s extended reverberation time. The production preserves the concluding applause as well as some faint audience noise along the way.