Schaller’s First Rate Bruckner 6th

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

The success or failure of Gerd Schaller’s Bruckner recordings seems to stem less from the conducting, which is invariably sympathetic and idiomatic, as from the variable sonics and the sound of the Philharmonie Festiva, a pick-up band that has its good days and its less good days. In this performance everyone had a good day. Schaller paces the symphony just about perfectly. Only his slight slowing down for the first movement coda might raise an eyebrow or two, although I had no problem with it. The Adagio is gorgeous–expressively flowing with no dead spots. Its second subject, one of Bruckner’s most luscious melodies, pours forth with all of the necessary passion and fervor.

Schaller’s treatment of the scherzo might be the highpoint of this performance. He finds an astounding range of arresting detail in its patterns of softly scurrying notes–moments that you won’t hear in any other version. The finale is always tricky. In many performances it comes as something of a letdown after the glowing peroration that concludes the first movement. The key, as Schaller understands, is not to treat the work as a “finale symphony” at all, but rather to play the music for its cheerfulness, humor, prayerful humility–in short, to let it speak for itself with a light touch and a vivacious basic tempo. The sonics, as so often in this series, are a touch light in the bass, and the timpani in particular could have more presence, but this doesn’t detract from the powerful impression that this wonderful performance makes.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Wand (RCA); Klemperer (EMI); Barenboim (DG)

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