A first try; fortunately not the final product
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 04/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I think some people, when they reach a certain limit pursuing music collecting, look for something new or different and rejoice when they find it. That's my take on the comments people made about the Naxos recordings of Bruckner symphonies some years back, when the late Georg Tintner recorded a number of "original" scores or what was said to be Bruckner's first thoughts. While they created some curiosity interest on their own, they rarely matched up well against Haas and Nowak editions we've heard for years by Karajan, Jochum and Wand.
I think it fair to say I not only didn't like the "original" Bruckner scores when compared against the later products, I also did not like Mendelssohn's scoring of Bach's "St. Matthew Passion", at least as recorded by Christoph Spering and his forces. In that case I not only did not like the scoring, which had cuts everywhere, I also through the singing was inferior to most good versions.
I think the "new and different" (but hardly improved) argument must be the reason some notable critics around the world ranked this production, where Chailly leads the Gewandhaus Orchestra, a choir and soloists in replicating Mendelssohn's first performance of the "Lobgesang" symphony, as something significant. It is not easy to summarize the differences in this compared to Mendelssohn's final product because there are differences all through the music. I found nothing I heard here that was an improvement over the final scoring and much to indicate this is an unfinished product.
I did a side-by-side comparison to what I believe is still the benchmark "Lobgesang" -- Christoph von Dohnanyi's recording with the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna State Opera Chorus and wonderful soloists from three decades ago. I most closely compared my favorite part, the chorus "Die Nacht ist vergangen." Not only was Dohnanyi's performance better, it was better recorded and included the wonderful final pages from the a capella section on, none of which was represented in the Chailly rendition.
Chailly has a couple things going for him. The female soloists perform admirably and tenor Peter Seiffert is a lot better than here than in the screechy performance he gave in the Naxos "Lobgesang" that came out about five years ago. I expected better sound, since this is a DDD recording from 2005 and I was comparing it to the first ADD pressing of music that came out in the 1970s. While there was some improved definition for voices, brass and strings, the timpani were invisible in Chailly's recording. Overall, the two CDs sound very similar and Chailly's choral work often sounds muddy.
Comparing this to Chailly's recording of the final "Lobgesang", I think the two are about the same. Outside of Rossini, Chailly is often a vanilla conductor and he furthers that reputation in this production. Classical Music Third Ear said his "Lobgesang" was "far less compelling" than Dohnanyi's, when it compared the two. I would say the same is true now of this version of the music.
The early score is interesting but, when compared to the much better final "Lobgesang", I don't think this one is going to have much lasting value for the average listener beyond its buzz as a new release. I think this recording will hold greatest interest for musicologists and people that probably don't like the "Lobgesang" symphony. If you have one or more favored versions of this music, this isn't going to sound very good by comparison. Better to save your money for one that will."