Bruckner Symphony No. 7—Andris Nelsons

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This April 2018 DGG release begins with a fine performance of Wagner's Siegfried's Funeral March, full of gorgeous sonorities and German style from Andris Nelsons' 'other' orchestra, the wonderful Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. As I mentioned in a recent review of Nelsons' Bruckner 4th with this orchestra, the sonorities are just right, the playing very beautiful. The playing, though, for all its beauty lacked a little of the drama that Bruckner legends like Walter, Jochum, Bohm and Klemperer bring to the great composer. So, how do they fare in the beautiful Seventh?

This performance is very much like the 4th, but with even finer playing. The long phrases sound wonderful—huge arching melodies that seem to go on forever.  The block brass fanfares Bruckner loves so much are perfectly in tune and in balance, so much so that 4th horn or 2nd trumpet counterpoint comes through clearly. It's often down in the murk. This recording uncovers everything but in the best acoustic.

I like Nelsons' interpretation here better than his last release. The flow of the first movement is perfect. A very natural unfolding of the drama. For the sublime Adagio, however, he lightens up the violins' sound so some of the intensity is lost. I think he was going for a 'whiter', diffuse sound, without much vibrato. I like my Bruckner never to let up. That said, it's a nitpick—much of the playing is very lovely. And like many great conductors he uses Bruckner's high range of the tuba as a 5th horn. It makes the harmony even richer, if that's possible? Bruckner wrote the Adagio's coda after hearing that Wagner, his musical hero, had died. It's a glorious apotheosis of Wagner Tubas, bass tubas and horns. It never fails to leave me deeply moved. 

Both the Scherzo (something portent, something ominous—Sir John Barbirolli) and the Finale give the right effect. Both continue the superb playing, with Nelsons in both movements allowing lovely solo melodies to the fore, especially the woodwind countermelodies.

I did not hear Nelsons' recent recording of the 3rd, but the 4th was excellent and this 7th is even better. Looking forward to the next instalment. 

ANTON BRUCKNER

Symphony No.7 In E Major, WAB 107—Ed. Haas

WAGNER: Siegfried's Funeral March

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Andris Nelsons

Int. Release 06 Apr. 2018

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