in: Reviews

February 24, 2017

Another Zander Sanders BoPhil Moment

by

The prospect of hearing the Boston Philharmonic under Benjamin Zander undertake the Bruckner Ninth in the pleasing acoustic of Sanders Theater intrigued me in no small part because of my recollections of a brilliant performance of the same work by the same forces at the over-reverberant First Congregational Church in 1979, the year of BPO’s founding.

The concert began with Beethoven’s often maligned Triple Concerto, featuring the Boston Trio: Irina Muresanu, violin; Jonah Ellsworth, cello; and Heng-Jin Park, piano. Much of the critical literature considers this to be of inferior inspiration, not really worthy of Beethoven, and there’s no doubt that it is hardly performed as often as any other Beethoven concertos. But it has all the vigor of Beethoven’s infallible sense of structure, and the straightforward melodic ideas follow each other in agreeable succession. I hadn’t realized that Beethoven had composed the easier piano part for the benefit of his 16-year-old pupil, the Archduke Rudolf, who played at the premiere, in 1808; Ben Zander, in his well-aimed and witty remarks before the performance, suggested that Beethoven had wanted to be sure that Rudolf mastered his scales. The violin and cello solos are more difficult, and include a good deal of high-register display, but there was fine expressiveness too from all three confident performers, especially in the slow movement. The finale, Rondo alla polacca  reminded us that this Triple Concerto is above all a merry work, even jolly. And by coincidence, the BSO was offering another triple concerto at the same time: Gubaidulina’s, featuring violin, cello and bayan accordion.

The new New Grove article on Bruckner (1824-1896) is 28 pages long, and that is a self-referential indication of his importance. Bruckner is one of those composers whom musicians either love or loathe—for most listeners there is seldom a middle ground or take-it-or-leave-it position. I remember listening intently in my university office to a radio broadcast of the Boston Symphony’s performance of Bruckner’s Ninth when the music department chairman came into the room and ordered me, in tones of summary indignation and vehemence, to turn it off. On the other hand, I know some intelligent listeners who worship Bruckner’s work to the point of dismissing all other composers as mere amateurs, Beethoven and Wagner not excepted.

From the evidence of both his career and his compositions, Bruckner might have been the perfect academic. He began as a country schoolmaster and worked his way up to becoming a professor who repeatedly sought academic advancement; he had many students, some of whom formed important careers. He was an organist of formidable ability. (In 1986 I heard an organ recital in the beautiful Baroque Piaristenkirche, in Vienna, where in 1861 Bruckner had passed a formal examination in organ playing that stunned the examiners.) He never ceased studying, analyzing, and revising his larger works. At an early stage he worked on counterpoint and form with Simon Sechter, a forgotten composer who had given one counterpoint lesson to Schubert shortly before the latter died, in November 1828—thus the improbable direct line to Bruckner, who admired Schubert profoundly (and one wonders how much of Schubert’s immense achievement Bruckner would have been likely to know, other than songs and piano music and the B minor and Great C major symphonies, as most of the larger works remained unpublished until Bruckner’s final years). Bruckner adored Beethoven boundlessly as well, and there’s a well-established legend of Bruckner making his way onto the scene of Beethoven’s exhumation in 1888, holding Beethoven’s skull in his hands, and talking to it with reverence. (Beethoven and Schubert had been buried in Vienna’s tiny Währing Cemetery in 1827 and 1828 respectively, and Schumann visited the graves in 1839; when the expanding city swallowed up the Währing district, their remains were reburied in the Zentralfriedhof, out in the sticks, leaving behind a couple of monuments.) One might say that Bruckner was desperately committed to correctness in his compositional technique; in his sketching, he was known to rule off page after page of four-measure phrases long before he wrote down any notes. Throughout his career, Bruckner had to endure the slings and arrows of his Viennese contemporaries; the critic Eduard Hanslick savaged his music, and Brahms, his younger rival and a consummate musical realist, regularly deplored Bruckner’s Wagner-inspired mystical excesses. (But see the wonderful description of a Brahms-Bruckner reconciliation dinner at the Red Hedgehog restaurant in 1889, in Frederic Morton’s A Nervous Splendor.)

Bruckner left a few examples of keyboard and chamber music, including a string quintet that may be important, but other than symphonies he concentrated on sacred music for chorus, sometimes a cappella but more often with instruments. My earliest experience with any of Bruckner’s music was his beautiful Mass No. 2 in E minor, with wind instruments (1866); one doesn’t hear it often because choral directors chafe at its vocal difficulty. His Te Deum is probably more often heard, but it is heavy.

The art of the symphony began for Bruckner with two early unnumbered examples and continued through nine numbered works, extending the principle of “heavenly length” through heavy length, and finally to empyrean grandeur, with a ponderousness that is never the same as pomposity. Everything about his symphonic thought is expansive, leisurely paced, and exalted in a Wagnerian sense; he was humbled by Wagner’s example, but his assimilation of that sound is more lyrical than dramatic, and in an unmistakably individual manner that in the later works explores a world of harmony unlike any other. The Seventh Symphony, the first to bring the Wagner tubas into the symphonic realm, is an actual tribute to Wagner, who died while Bruckner was composing it. The enormous Eighth Symphony, with an opening bass melody having the same rhythm as the opening theme of Beethoven’s Ninth, could be related to the exhumation. Bruckner’s Ninth is likely the greatest of all of his symphonies, but it is unfinished, in three movements. The weaknesses of Bruckner’s style that I’ve already referred to are everywhere evident; the four-bar phrases and mechanical repetitions are everywhere dependable; and yet I come back to this final symphony with respect and even amazement, time and again.

Jonah Ellsworth, Irina Muresanu and Heng-Jin Park

Zander employed forces that Bruckner demanded: 3-3-3-3 [without auxiliaries]; 8 (four Wagner tubas)-3-3-1; timpani; strings 14-14-10-12-8. The tuba player had two instruments—I assume the normal F tuba, with the C contrabass where needed. The BPO gave us something in many ways remarkable: for its near-perfect precision, worthy of the best of world-famous orchestras; for the resonance of sound that filled the hall and regularly achieved fff in the most triumphant manner but was not even once too loud; for the fine blend of brass that never overpowered the rest of the ensemble (from my vantage point in the balcony, this was ideal); for the clear demonstration that in Bruckner the dramatic element is invariably subsumed to the lyrical. There is mystery (“Feierlich. Misterioso”), there is mysticism, there is Catholic piety, there is other-worldly strangeness: all evolve from the shade of Schubert no less than from Wagner. Zander remarked that Bruckner’s Ninth has the architecture of a cathedral in music; if so, the dome is D minor with a blazing triple-dotted opening motive; the crisp, fleet-footed Scherzo is a frieze of gargoyles and gnomes; while the third movement is a despairing procession to the crypt that Bruckner knew he couldn’t complete in time. Though the composer would have doubted it, I even hear French connections: the Trio of the Scherzo is the darkest F-sharp major in any work I know of since the Prelude to d’Indy’s Fervaal, composed at about the same time; the successions of nondominant sevenths in the Scherzo have a psychological kinship with the muted-trumpets section of Debussy’s Fêtes, also from about the same time; and the ghostly, even chilling French-sixth chord in four Wagner tubas (third movement, mm73-76) would have provoked a knowing smile from Bruckner’s fellow organist, the two-years-older and deeply Catholic César Franck.

There were many such moments of penetrating communication, not forgetting Zander’s lengthy but entirely appropriate pre-concert explanations of the structure of the Bruckner. The evening as a whole was coherent, the audience entirely sympathetic. This was, we all learned, truly lovable music. Boston can take unequivocal pride in such a good orchestra, so well led by one who gives this difficult music the understanding it deserves.

Mark DeVoto, musicologist and composer, is an expert in Alban Berg, also Ravel and Debussy. A graduate of Harvard College (1961) and Princeton (PhD, 1967), he has published extensively on these composers and many music subjects, most notably, harmony.

18 Comments

  1. While Mr. DeVoto has given us a very informative and interesting review, he comes at this from a different perspective than I do, and I had a very different experience than he did at Thursday night’s concert (but interestingly, we were sitting in the same general area). Unlike him, I did not find the Bruckner 9 to be on the whole successful.

    Before going there, let me first just indicate that Maestro Zander and the BPO gave us an ASTONISHING Bruckner 8 several years ago, which was quite literally the performance of a lifetime. It was, by far, the best live performance of that masterpiece these ears have ever heard, with Zander’s interpretation far superceding the many performances I’ve heard over the years from Haitink, Welser-Most, Barenboim, and many others. It still rings in my ears, and it is quite literally the best thing I’ve ever heard the Boston Philharmonic do. A truly great, great, performance for the ages.

    But I thought Thursday night’s Bruckner 9 was not successful overall. I agree with Mr. DeVoto that the brass had an exceptional evening, and his description of their playing is spot-on. Their playing was always tasteful, appropriately present and at times quite loud although always at the service of the music, and yet never lost control, maintaining beautiful balance and supreme integrity. They outplayed their counterparts of the Staatskapelle Berlin, who I heard perform this same symphony at Carnegie Hall just a few weeks back. That’s quite an achievement.

    But I thought the performance of the symphony was undercharacterized. The reading lacked a supreme sense of mystery and the awe of the other-worldly, and on the whole felt two-dimensional rather than three-dimensional. The timpanist, whose role is so vital in this symphony, must not have made it to Sanders Theater Thursday night (although there was someone standing behind the kettle drums). The orchestra never really achieved a piano, let alone pianissimo, y3t there are vasts sections of the symphony that are quiet, at times lyrically quiet, but at times quiet with burning intensity, and none of that was present. The dynamic contrasts on the whole were insufficiently delineated below a moderate level, as the volume ranged from mf to fff. And the structure of the symphony subsequently suffered.

    Maybe some of these issues will be ironed out in subsequent performances. I really hope so, because it seems to me that Maestro Zander’s interpretation of the work has significantly deepened since I last heard him perform it with the BPO a decade or so ago. But sadly, Thursday night’s performance was a miss.

    Comment by Mogulmeister — February 25, 2017 at 6:08 am

  2. Repeats tonight at Jordan and tomorrow afternoon at Sanders.

    Comment by david moran — February 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm

  3. Mogulmeister: “But sadly, Thursday night’s performance [of the Bruckner 9th] was a miss.”

    I get what you’re saying about this performance lacking that last degree of mystery at times, and I really appreciate your obvious love for this cosmic masterpiece. From my seat on the floor, though, this was a surprisingly powerful and affecting performance. To my ears, it worked for the most part – quite an achievement for the BPO and indeed anyone else, the Staatskapelle Berlin included! Bru9 is very, very hard to play, I think, and requires the kind of wisdom and perspective evinced in Benjamin Zander’s inspiring introduction.

    To borrow from the maestro’s apt metaphor: a few arches and buttresses may have ended up less than perfectly aligned, but the apse was utterly solid and rose to celestial heights. At times I was in awe of its magnificence.

    By the way, that BPO Bruckner 8th was fantastic, wasn’t it!

    Comment by nimitta — February 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm

  4. A small point: In America, the C tuba is the go-to instrument, not the F. If both are in use, it’s likely that the tubist will deploy the F in certain passages for its tone color, its intonation tendencies, or for greater high-register security. This is how Mr Rankin used them in the Bruckner.

    Comment by Mark Rohr (bass trombone, BPO) — February 26, 2017 at 2:54 pm

  5. Nimitta, your comments are always insightful, thoughtful, and tasteful, and I always take them seriously. I hope our paths cross one day in person. I’m glad you had a better experience with the Bruckner 9 on Thursday night. I wish I could have enjoyed it more than I did.

    I go back to the GREAT Bruckner 9 experience I had, and it came from the most unlikely of sources: the much-maligned Seiji Ozawa. Near the end of his tenure, Seiji performed B9 with the BSO. Richard Dyer panned the concert (which was unusual for him, so it really must have been lousy), and I completely trust Dyer’s ears because he rarely heard things differently than I did (and we always would be at the same concerts). My guess is that Thursday night performance was terrible. But I went to the last performance in the cycle on the following Tuesday night. I had no plans to go, but needed to kill a few hours in Boston before meeting up with my now-spouse, and said, what the heck, why don’t I go see if I can get a cheap ticket and hear the terrible performance, at least it’s still Bruckner 9. I did get a very cheap ticket–a guy sold me his seat in the center of the floor for $20, and then ended up getting blown away by the greatest performance of the symphony I’ve ever heard live–and I’ve heard many, including performances from Haitink, Janowski, Barenboim, Welser-Most, Eschenbach, Zander, Dohnanyi, etc. I have no idea what happened between Thursday and Tuesday, but my guess is that Seiji and the orchestra were not on the same page for that first concert, but the problems were completely resolved by the fourth one. And oh my god, was that a performance for the ages. Except for some brass flub ups in the third movement (coming from one of the most obvious sources, Charles Schlueter), it was an EXCEPTIONAL performance and the BSO sounded like the Berlin Philharmonic, playing way beyond their routine norm. I left Symphony Hall in a daze and honestly could not speak for an extended period of time.

    A number of years later, I was having a chat with a business acquaintance, and he mentioned he never really “got” Bruckner until he heard a performance of Bruckner 9 conducted by Seiji. A few more inquiries revealed he also was at that Tuesday concert. He said to me, “I’ve heard Bruckner over the years and never thought there was anything there, it never made any sense to me. But that concert was in our series so we went, and with that performance, Bruckner made sense to me in a way that his music never previously had, and I was blown away by that performance.” So I was not alone!

    So here’s what happened with that performance. I didn’t learn this until a few years ago, but apparently Herbert von Karajan asked Seiji to perform Bruckner’s 9th in his memory after he died. Given that Seiji worshipped Karajan, he did, performing the symphony both in Berlin as well as Boston. That performance meant everything to Ozawa, and at least at the concert I heard, he delivered the greatest tribute to Karajan that I’m sure would have even impressed the great maestro. It was absolutely magnificent, and I count it among the 3 greatest concerts I’ve ever heard.

    One thing I’ve learned–you never know where lightning will strike: Bruckner’s 8th with Zander and the Boston Philharmonic, Bruckner’s 5th with the (little) Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu, and Bruckner’s 9th with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Philharmonic. All other-worldly performances that were beyond transporting, and which well surpassed more storied ensembles and conductors.

    Comment by Mogulmeister — February 26, 2017 at 3:11 pm

  6. Mogulmeister: “I left Symphony Hall in a daze and honestly could not speak for an extended period of time.”

    Yep, that’s me too after a great performance of the Bruckner 9th! Thanks SO much for this wonderful recollection of Seiji’s Bru9, which I missed, alas. To me, there’s just nothing like this piece under an inspired baton (not to give too much credit to the conductor when it’s really the players who must feel it and deliver).

    I’m curious, MM or others: did you have a chance to hear Marek Janowski lead it with the BSO in October, 2007? I thought that was pretty damn special, and definitely remember the daze and the speechlessness. Here too, it was another case of enormous evolution between the somewhat untogether Thursday night performance under review and the magnificence on Saturday night.

    Comment by nimitta — February 26, 2017 at 7:17 pm

  7. Hi Nimitta,

    Yes, I did hear the Janowski B9 on the Thursday evening concert in the cycle. There were some good things about it, but on the whole, for me, it was one of the less memorable performances I’ve heard of B9. What I did not care for was Janowski’s constant pushing/pulling of the piece, with sudden tempo shifts that I found to be more disruptive than illuminating. I heard an interview with him on WBUR after the concert (on Friday afternoon) in which he indicated that he believes it’s necessary to shift tempos to delineate structure. I’m not sure I buy into that approach, because I’ve heard more than a few conductors delineate structure without making you dizzy with tempo lurches that Bruckner never specified.

    Consider the recording of Bruckner’s 9th from a live performance conducted by Ferdinand Leitner with the RSO Stuttgart, a truly great performance. To my ears, the intensity of this performance is overwhelming and stands apart from even other truly great performances of this symphony. Leitner doesn’t push and pull the music at all, the pulse is fairly steady throughout. But through shifting of dynamics and phrasing, he conveys structure better than most and it creates a building effect that is overwhelming, even if the orchestra is not of the first rank. And then of course there is the astonishing Giulini live performance with the Vienna Philharmonic on DG. Giulini also takes the steady-as-she-goes tempo approach, and gives us a performance for the ages that more than a few consider to be the greatest performance of any symphony ever recorded by anyone. Which of course takes away nothing from Karajan’s truly great 1975 performance from his Bruckner box set with the Berlin Philharmonic. I guess at the end of the day, my personal preference is for the steady build approach as best exemplified by conductors like Karajan, Giulini, Skrowaczewski, and even (at his glacial pace) Celibidache. So that’s a long-winded answer to indicate that Janowski’s B9 was less impactful on me than other live performances I’ve heard (of which the best, by far, was Ozawa’s) and have in recording. Thankfully, Bruckner’s 9th has been well-served in recording, and there are many outstanding choices, of which I know I’ve omitted one that many would put at the top of the list–Furtwangler’s incendiary 1944 performance. It is also a great performance and I listen to it on occasion, but I think it builds a cumulative effect through genuine hystrionics that unfortunately are external to the music itself, which I find to be less effective than the slow-but-steady approach put forward by the others above.

    Comment by Mogulmeister — February 26, 2017 at 8:17 pm

  8. Wow, MM, your survey of Bru9 recordings is a lavish, welcome gift – thanks so much. Myself, I do have several of these and am particularly blown away by the Giulini/VPO. I’d never heard of the RSO Stuttgart/Leitner version til now, though, and look forward to hearing it shortly (I enjoyed your review on amazon, by the way – it was a sale!).

    Comment by nimitta — February 27, 2017 at 3:37 pm

  9. The timpanist, whose role is so vital in this symphony, must not have made it to Sanders Theater Thursday night (although there was someone standing behind the kettle drums).

    Dear Mr. Mogulmeister, being the guy “standing” actually sitting behind the drums, I am particularly curious where you were sitting in Sanders? For the first time in decades, due to space constraints, I was positioned in the corner of the stage, away from all my Brass brethren. I felt very removed from the sound, especially when I compare our performance in Jordan Hall on Saturday night. Although I do not appreciate your mean spirited comment that I didn’t show up, I am interested in your constructive opinion. I do take your criticism seriously and would be interested in your response. Incidentally, your comment had an effect on my interpretation for the subsequent performances.

    Comment by Ed Meltzer (Timpanist BPO) — February 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

  10. Mr. Meltzer, allow me to apologize for my comment. You are absolutely right, I could have expressed the same sentiments in a less hurtful manner. I thought I was being humorous, but in retrospect, the idea should have been stated differently.

    I was sitting on the balcony, dead center, third row. I’ve sat at many locations in Sanders Theater, and I find the balcony dead center to be the hall’s sweet spot, to my ears at least.

    There was just no aural impact in your playing from where I sat, which was most glaring especially at the many times in the symphony when a forceful presence was essential to the music. For me, it was jarring, and it felt like there was a vacuum in the soundscape that really detracted from the overall performance. The timpanist has such an essential (and perhaps unheralded) role in B9, yet perhaps through no fault of your own, that role went unfulfilled. It honestly felt like it was off by 3 standard deviations, not just somewhat. To the extent that this feedback was helpful to you and you were able to make adjustments in subsequent performances, that pleases me simply because it probably made the subsequent performances that much better.

    Comment by Mogulmeister — February 27, 2017 at 5:55 pm

  11. I was in Mez. D (dead center) second row. The timpani were almost inaudible. They sound best when
    backstage center, as I recall the BSO (and maybe BPO also) once placed them.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — February 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm

  12. Gentlemen, your comments are well received. The next time I am asked to sacrifice my position to accommodate the Brass preferences, I will push back! I hope you continue to come to our performances and please introduce yourselves to me either before or after the performance.

    Comment by Ed Meltzer (Timpanist BPO) — February 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm

  13. Well, this is inside baseball, for sure, but . . .

    Yes, traditionally, Ed (one of the best timpanists I’ve had the privilege to play with) has the sacred central position in our concerts. And for most pieces, this is fine and good.

    However, the issue with the Bruckner and Sanders is the 8 horns/Wagner tubas. At first it was Ben’s idea to have the horns in a row in front of the row of trumpets and trombones. This would have been deadly to music-making, as the horns’ output faces backwards, while the trumpets and trombones direct their sound forward. Having this volume of sound only a couple of feet from the other players’ heads would have compromised balance, sound, and intonation in a way that would have prevented the nicely balanced rendition that the above posters have so kindly noted.

    The next idea was to put the horns in two rows of four each, while leaving trumpets and trombones in a row. The horn players liked this because it put them much closer to their principal–always a good thing, and you heard the stunning results in their playing. The trombones and trumpets liked this also, as it’s much easier to hear the principal trumpet when in a row, and it gave a little space to those string and wind players who have the misfortune to sit in front of us.

    It was Ed who got the short end of the stick. ;-)

    I need to note, however, that we in the orchestra heard Ed just fine. (While I prefer to be closer to such a consummate player, sometimes compromises must be made.) In addition, Ben has superb listeners out in the audience at every rehearsal; had the timpani been “inaudible” to them, we all would have heard about it, pronto. Further, Ben clearly approved of what *he* was hearing as well. It’s just possible that what the commenters above heard was *exactly* what Ben wanted them to hear. Actually, it’s more than possible, it’s likely.

    OR: Sanders has a few quirks. I remember playing the Stravinsky Mass in Sanders years ago with the Cantata Singers, and the Globe’s reviewer mentioned that there were moments when he could not hear the trombones at all. (I took that as a job well done!) I wonder if somehow he was in a “dead zone” for trombones in Sanders. I have not sat everywhere in Sanders, and I prefer the same location as the reviewer, but I’ve never experienced instruments dropping out.

    One thing I do know: Ed is a fabulous player, and if anyone didn’t hear him clearly, it could only be because that was what Ben wanted in certain passages (remember, everything we do on stage is Ben-approved), or the vagaries of the hall caused it. In the BPO, the timpanist *always* shows up, and we are blessed that he does!

    Comment by Mark Rohr (bass trombone, BPO) — February 28, 2017 at 8:42 am

  14. I got a ticket from an acquaintance.

    It is nearly impossible to discuss music interpretation when the music execution is below certain threshold. (of course, I am aware of the presence of the players on stage. but I am faithfully reporting the facts). For example, just after the opening, section B on score, the pulsating oboes playing along with the flutes and others were so unbearably ugly. please be reminded, cosmically mysterious feeling does not mean to scare people with ugly sound. I am certain Mr. Zander did not ask for this kind of ugly sound. The local climax came to rescue, since loud sound coves a lot of weakness. Unfortunately, there must be many audience member started to worry about the brass before B9, esp. the horns, who made many unpleasant mistakes in the concerto.

    Even with this execution level, however, I was able to talk about the interpretation I heard. There was one great musician named Furtwangler, who could magically and abruptly shift the tempo to create greatest effect. Sadly, he has been the only one who capable of doing that. people like Barenboim tried to pretend very hard, but only able to produce distasteful imitations. But there is another layer that only very few people can see is that style works best with Beethoven and its effect is never as great in Bruckner, because Beethoven’s music is the inner voice of the purest and the most earnest man while Bruckner the most pious prayer. In my opinion, certain local accelerations hurts the mighty image of GOD. I remember at lease two places did not sound right in the first mov., one being the closing statement and the other (my memory really betrays me in recent years) being the determined march like climax at around 13 min.

    Mr. Zander’s gestures are often explosive, a great asset. Sometimes I wish Mr. Nelsons can power up more (not that he is not dramatic). I have to say but. This high power and the big gestures remind me of a half Brit conductor, Solti, in a bad way. Many times, calming down was not signaled. The instrument players need to be reminded. For example, before the prayer theme (1/3 of the 1st movement), a sense of tranquility (to be shortly contrasted by a turmoil round of horns) was not built, partly due to unclean playing and partly not braking enough.

    BTW, I was able to hear most of the instruments, did not feel like missing anything (beautiful and ugly).

    As a fellow Bruckner admirer, I said this before: the world is very cruel, people may love the right things for the wrong reasons. I don’t know why MM always share his discography interest. To me, many of the recommendations are not reliable. why?
    http://www.classical-scene.com/2016/04/09/bso-diverse-austrian/

    I would highly recommend SantaFeListener’s reviews on Amazon, since we are talking about amazon. He is the most honest and capable reviewer out there. I think Lee should invite him to review some of the BSO concerts, when he happens to be in town for concert. (why is a non-Bruckner admirer assigned to review Bruckner concert???) Another but, even he is not always right. For example, he liked Haitink’s Bruckner 5…

    One more suggestion. my acquaintance told me about some of the ‘jokes’ from the pre-concert talk. Can we stop this PR experiment? Is it really useful to pretend? I walked to the door and heard ‘BPO world class’ and I returned around to the restroom instead. I could only imagine the silly laughs. At least Beethoven and Bruckner concerts don’t need that.

    Comment by Thorsten — February 28, 2017 at 3:46 pm

  15. Thanks to MM for the Leitner recommendation. It’s truly a musical presentation.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — March 1, 2017 at 8:21 am

  16. Thorsten, you are so right. Shame on me for making reference to various Bruckner recordings that are simply unreliable.

    Nimitta, please, cancel your order immediately for the Leitner recording. Perhaps Thorsten can point you in the direction of a reliable recording.

    Comment by Mogulmeister — March 1, 2017 at 9:20 am

  17. No need to cancel, MM – at least Martin Cohn’s recommendations are reliable.

    Seriously, though, Thorsten’s comment here exemplifies his intense and deeply informed perspective – informed both by beauty and ugliness. I confess I’m drawn to it like moth to flame.

    The beautiful? From the April 10th comment linked above: “When I was a teenager, I was immediately moved by Bruckner 3, first hearing it. It is a great tragedy that it is so overlooked, even by Bruckner lovers. The work has an innermost nature, only slow movement of 4th can compare, an mixture of respect and awe, only 5th and 9th can compare. Its ranking should be more like Beethoven 3 among the great 9.” And this from April 12th: “I dedicate my effort to the greatest symphonist, unparalleled only closely following the music god Beethoven, true master Anton Bruckner.”

    The ugly? Also from April 10th: “The musically educated really should allow their thinking to be baptized by my pious revelation: Even people who love classical know/understand so pathetically little about music as an art.” Or above: “people like Barenboim tried to pretend very hard, but only able to produce distasteful imitations.” Or also above: “…but I am faithfully reporting the facts.”

    I’ve gleaned over time that Thorsten’s facts are often but not always my facts. On the other hand, during several Bruckner performances led by Daniel Barenboim – some good, others decent – never have I detected the least attempt on his part to “pretend” anything. I’m not even sure what that might mean here. Hasn’t Barenboim simply tried to shift tempos, with varying degrees of success? And “only”? Thorsten, your assumption of bad faith sounds to me like bad faith.

    As for that proffered baptism: let us remain piously agnostic for now.

    Comment by nimitta — March 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

  18. The criticism was fair.

    Since I consider Mr. MM’s recording listing unnecessary, I should not have included Barenboim in an unnecessary fashion. But MM mentioned Furt 1944, that is why I talked about those local accelerations and the two places my ears noticed (exact location not clearly remembered for the first one).

    Comment by Thorsten — March 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

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