Bruckner: Symphony No. 6/Gielen

Review by: Victor Carr Jr

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony has been quite fortunate on disc in recent years with excellent recordings by Dohnányi, Wand, Eschenbach, and Chailly, as well as classic versions by Klemperer and Barenboim/Chicago. Michael Gielen’s compelling new Hänssler recording certainly belongs in this company. Gielen’s meticulous attention both to the music’s layered rhythmic structure and to its contrapuntal detail results in a performance exceptional for its vibrancy and textural clarity. His interpretation in some ways is reminiscent of Klemperer’s–a rock-steady tempo in the first movement followed by an unusually fleet and flowing Adagio. The finale also finds Gielen following Klemperer in his bold, heavy pacing of the development section. Overall, however, this is a classically proportioned reading in which the conductor eschews the usual romantic ritardandos at the close of the first movement and finale, allowing Bruckner’s wonderfully abrupt endings to have their full impact. The SWR orchestra plays handsomely throughout, with marvelous brass contributions in the outer movements.

Schoenberg’s Bach transcription makes a surprisingly apt coupling, as it too revels in clean-lined counterpoint. Schoenberg’s brilliant, colorful orchestration and skillful application of dynamics renders the Prelude, and especially the Fugue, with an energized euphony hardly attainable on the organ, and has the curious effect of making the music sound thoroughly modern. Gielen’s masterful conducting conveys this sense of new within old, making for a richly satisfying conclusion to this beautifully recorded disc.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bruckner: Wand (RCA), Klemperer (EMI), Barenboim (DG), Dohnanyi (Decca)

ANTON BRUCKNER - Symphony No. 6
J.S. BACH/A. SCHOENBERG - Prelude & Fugue in E-flat BWV 552

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