Schaller’s Hollow Bruckner First, Vienna Version

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

The Vienna version of Bruckner’s First Symphony, although the first one published, lost ground to the (to some ears) brighter, fresher Linz edition, but some conductors, notably Günter Wand, prefer it and in a great performance it can make just as fine an impression. This isn’t a great performance. It’s a decent one. The problem isn’t that Gerd Schaller doesn’t conduct well, although the first movement could do with more pep, but there’s something odd about the live sonics–a hollow quality to the sound that robs the orchestra of fullness.

The result makes the strings of the Philharmonie Festiva lack richness and warmth, especially in the Adagio, while the timpani and basses don’t ground the music the way that they should. In either version the eruptive finale ought to rise to a rousing climax, but it doesn’t here. Has the presence of the audience robbed the music of some of its impact? If you don’t know this version of the symphony, Wand is still your best option, with Abbado’s late Lucerne Festival recording also worth considering. There’s nothing especially wrong with this release, but it still comes across as curiously unsatisfying.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Wand (RCA)

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