Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Simone Young; Hamburg Philharmonic|
Bruckner: Sinfonie Nr. 2 [Hybrid SACD]
Listen to Samples
Simone Young's Bruckner 2 in Hamburg: Vital, Bracing - A Win
Dan Fee | Berkeley, CA USA | 06/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In many instances, we lament the bad effects of globalization as everything gets mixed up while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tired of trying to get global Fortune Five Hundred technical assistance from a help desk in another country where the long hot sun of language and culture barriers seems to have dried up every last drop of effective and knowing customer service? Sometimes I think the person screaming down the hall is blowing apart from having to hear repeated technical service scripts that are a lot like those software pop-up help windows that just keep recycling all the obvious problems - which clearly by now you probably do NOT have - while you begin to wonder if some gremlin from last night's horror movie has come to live on your very own desktop.
In this instance, though, globalization has brought us something noteworthy and laudable, Simone Young conducting the Hamburg Philharmonic in the Bruckner Second Symphony. Original version, 1872, as edited by David Carrigan for the Nowak series.
Let's deal with the orchestra right away.
The last time I heard the Hamburg Philharmonic on disc was, I believe, an old recording of Brahm's First Symphony that Charles Mackerras - now Sir Charles - had led in Hamburg. (Vinyl, you see. Those flat plastic platters with groove thangs.) It had lots of drive and energy and gesture, but alas, lacked finesse in a Jack Sprat sort of way. Just when you needed something to be deft and lean, it would sound too fat and unfocused. Just when you wanted something to be rich and detailed, it would go too thin. The overall musical points were made, but playing was too sloppy, too regional-band.
Then, of course, Gunter Wand went to Hamburg to conduct and build up the NDR, among other things. Presumably Mackerras and other leaders also helped build up music in Hamburg.
Suffice it to say, that, judging from this super audio multi-channel disc, Hamburg has arrived in the annals of modern recordings. Rather like the Munich Philharmonic after the likes of Celibidache and Levine. The orchestra is fully present, all departments accounted for quite well. The strings do not go thin just when the music, particularly in Bruckner, needs to reach high in a climax, or drop to softness without losing the listener. The brass are not wobbly or faint of heart, and yield plenty of sheen and blend and finesse. The woodwinds are silvery or reedy as needed, and we hear no lack of rapt solo playing in this or that passage.
This is good news - for Hamburg of course, and for the rest of us.
Ms. Young arrives in Hamburg, having started in Australia, then stopped off briefly in Bergen, Norway, on her travels. All along the path, she has built a sterling musical reputation, sometimes obscured by her willingness to challenge the financial and institutional powers that be if she thinks her musical organization can do better with better support and leadership. Given how dearly the Germans hold their cultural institutions, including their musical ones, one imagines that finally Ms. Young has arrived at the right place at the right moment. She is flourishing, indeed, as this recording demonstrates.
What about her Bruckner? What about her Bruckner Second Symphony, original 1872 version?
Good news, all around. She has plenty of drive, impact, and energy. Think a fine woman athlete, more or less at the top of her considerable form. Her Bruckner has nothing diminished or diminutive about its musical manners or its musical substance. Her phrasing is alert, deft, vital and capable of inflection across the long, deep musical breaths that Bruckner so often takes in his own special sort of musical narrative. Ms. Young's leadership has great, great patience without losing an iota of drive and forward motion. You never feel she is rushing to get to a big, Brucknerian moment at the expense of the Bruckner journey that is the destination.
Her slow movement, Adagio, is fiery, and entirely lovely. It, too, manages to keep moving despite having slowed its tempo, and a listener knows that we are heading for the varied and difficult Finale.
All of these pitfalls are amplified by the recourse here to the original version of 1872. Later versions were shortened, focused differently, and are still being played. Hybrid versions which mix the various editions Bruckner either made or sanctioned exist, and these are played, too. The performance attitude, particularly with the second symphony, seems to be that we are not bound to choose only the version in which Bruckner started out - any more than we are beholden to, say, Beethoven's sketch books. This loose pass at the symphony's beginnings is probably further amplified by the fact that this is an early work, and most people presume that Bruckner was still finding his feet after long years of study when he forbid himself to much compose.
What Ms. Young and the Hamburg band show us, however, is that all these presuppositions are probably wrong, if not also pretty wrong-headed. This first version of the second symphony is NOT in any way, actually, the sound of Anton Bruckner halfway to really being himself in the later - and often presumed much greater - symphonies. Its poetry compels. What sounds loose and meandering in other performances, here becomes a vivid part of the rich whole. The composer as famed organ virtuoso, renowned for his improvisations, also communicates all sorts of good and interesting things.
A second symphony right up at the top, then. Next to the rather different version of 1877, led by Giulini with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on Testament. Next to the two Kurt Eichhorn readings with the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz.
More good news? This is the first release in a projected complete symphony cycle under Simone Young with Hamburg. Oh yes.
Highly recommended, for performance, and - did I forget? - for multi-channel SACD sound that helps recreate the Laeisszhalle Hamburg, right in your listening room. Oh so yummy."
3.5 stars -- a good attempt at a bad edition
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 07/28/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There's a reason the Bruckner Symphony No. 2 is nicknamed the "symphony of pauses" and, in this recording, Australian conductor Simone Young makes it plain to everyone. Using an "original" version of the 1872 score as retouched by William Carragan, Young leads us on a 71-minute traversal of the symphony, complete with up to eight pauses during the first movement -- moments where the music actually stops, then restarts anew or follows the same theme. This seems to be the new mantra for the Bruckner circa 2009 -- that the composer's original ideas were best.
Young's adherence to "authenticity" is rallied by the notes that come with this recording. Written by Michael Lewin and translated by Elizabeth Gahbler, the essay focuses almost completely on what has come to be known as the "edition problem" with Bruckner. If you're not familiar with this, Bruckner's work was often criticized when new and many helpful hands, from conductors and editors like Carragan, often changed the real or perceived shortcomings in the music. Bruckner himself often rewrote his work after first trial.
The pauses in the first movement, which I think add nothing and detract greatly, were resolved by the post World War II edition that most used -- the Nowak edition -- until the authenticity bug bit Bruckner interpreters in recent years. Now we are back to the old way, apparently, where all Bruckner's once considered shortcomings are now monumentally important. Lewin's notes say, "Although Bruckner's revisions here are not as radical as in later symphonies...the difference in the versions is still sensational as well as dramatic in its effects on the overall work."
Well, not for everyone, I'm afraid. The worldwide press on this recording was split, in part becuase of what was oft-considered the inferior edition she used. This is the same edition Kurt Eichhorn used in one of his recordings of the symphony for the Japanese Camerata label Bruckner: Symphony No.2 In C Minor. Here, Young adds time to the overall concept compared to the more tightly-edited and judicious Nowak version championed by Karajan Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 - Herbert von Karajan / Berlin Philharmonic, Jochum Symphonies 1-9 and others of that era. Jochum's Bayreuth recording on DG runs almost 3 minutes fewer in the opening movement, crops 5 minutes from the adagio, edits 4 minutes out of the scherzo, and get through in 7 minutes less in the finale.
To borrow a line from critic James Reel of Fanfare in his review of this recording, less is more in the Bruckner Symphony 2. This is not one of Bruckner's greatest works. It lacks the inevitablilty of the "Romantic" Fourth Symphony, the contrapuntal majesty of the Fifth, the relaxed vigor of the Sixth, and compares in no way to the greatness of the final three symphonies. The Second, while being the composer's first symphonic composition demonstrating his mature style, more shows the way to the greatness to come than exhibiting it, especially in this lengthy and episodic edition that seems to go on forever compared to Jochum's 51-minute Nowak version.
Young, who is a Bruckner specialist that has recorded his Symphonies 2, 3, 4 and, most recently, 8, is probably the first woman to specialize in recordings of his music. For this, I am grateful. The notes say she was always a Bruckner devotee and report she worked under Daniel Baremboim at one point in her career. Barenboim is a committed Brucknerian, having twice recorded all nine numbered symphonies. While I am pleased another Bruckner specialist has appeared, I wish I could say more positive things about this, for while the edition renders this less than it could have been, there are issues with Young's approach that make this less than the value of its quite high cost.
In the heavily paused first movement, instead of focusing on forward movement that would have given the reading more life, Young seems to dwell on the connecting phrases after the pauses. Taking every repeat throughout the lengthy performance, while "authentic," was not in my opinion a good idea. It merely reinforced the lack of thematic ideas in the symphony's early movements. While Young nicely closed the adagio, she was metronomic in the early part of that movement. Her tempos in the finale seem to be pulled all over the place from rapid to slack to a crawl. While Furtwangler and Jochum made alternating tempos work, I think Young has some work to do on that count. The super audio recording projects a rich, dark Viennese flavor appropriate to Bruckner with depth and realism. The woodwinds -- aside from a prevalent bassoon -- are hidden beneath the mass of brass ansd strings and trumpets are nowhere to be heard, possibly an outcome of the edition.
For others Seconds, the late Georg Tintner Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 (1872 ver., ed. Carragan) recorded the original score for Naxos but it's just as lengthy as this one with less character, a less good orchestra, and less good sound. I'd say avoid the flaccid, overrated Giulini Bruckner: Symphony No. 2. Solti is a disaster Symphonies (Complete) (Comp) in Bruckner while Chailly Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 and Stein Bruckner: Symphony No.2 [Australia] offer nothing special. Karajan can be OK in Bruckner as can Barenboim Bruckner: Symphony No 2 (1877 Version). For history buffs, no Furtwangler recording is available but a Bruckner specialist from yesteryear, Volkmar Andreae, recorded the "original" score of the Symphony 2 in 1953. His 51-minute version Syms 1-9/Te Deum is included in a recently released box of all the Bruckner symphonies on Arts & Music label. It's a pretty good reading in ancient sound.
While Young's fine-sounding super audio recording has some allure, I recommend persons with serious interest in the Bruckner Symphony No. 2 purchase Jochum's version that's only available in his integral DG box of all the numbered symphonies. Young's orchestra, the Hamburg Philharmonic, plays well for her but is no match for Jochum's Bavarian orchestra. The brass, while mellifluous in a Viennese way, can't match the playing or sound of Jochum's group even though they recorded the symphony 40 years earlier. If you must have an "authentic" recording, get the one by Eichhorn that's still available in USA as an import. Eichhorn includes both the Carragan 1872 edition as well as the "first performing version" from 1873 in a package many Bruckner lovers take to the desert island. Part of the joy is Eichhorn employs the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz, a wonderful instrument, and is recorded in sound that makes more of the brighter elements than this one. Either recording will let you hear something about Bruckner this recording does not.