AOM Logo November 1998

Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 4

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen cond.

Sony Music SK63301

David Aspinall

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The Bruckner and Mahler avalanche continues. I must have been among the apparent few happy with available options even at the end of the analog era. Now that we have dozens of performances of Bruckner's most popular symphonies, 'tis a puzzlement who's buying them all. Really, the classical recording industry has ratified redundancy in recent years, particularly the major labels. Yes, we know conductors' contracts are partly, maybe principally, to blame. We know, too, that every conductor worth his hiking boots has to conquer these Alps among symphonies. Nevertheless, enough.

Furtwangler, Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Karajan, Jochum and Böhm said as much as I have inclination to hear about Bruckner's Fourth. For those with insatiable appetite and bottomless bank account, Salonen does OK by Bruckner, underlining the Mahler/landler connections, and leaning more lightly on the grandiosity than many (say Böhm and Karajan). Salonen seems to actually luxuriate in the valleys of this work, rather than hastening on to the heights. The recording helps, with the brass-dominated chorales sounding quite inoffensive for digital. On the whole, I was impressed, but hardly overwhelmed. Which is something less than it will take, in the face of the above competition, to justify adding this Bruckner Four to my permanent collection.

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