miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
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For the last month I've been in a classical mood in general and a Bruckner mood in particular. Anton Bruckner wrote very long symphonies, usually clocking in at over an hour each. I've always liked listening to them, but in the last month they've seemed particularly suited to listening to on one of my walks -- if I can listen to most of a symphony then I know I've walked at least 50 minutes to an hour. ^_^

With Bruckner you're normally talking about his symphonies, and usually numbers 3 through 9. The most popular ones are number 4, number 7, number 9 and number 8. The largest and most breathtaking are probably number 5, number 8, and number 9, which is only 3 movements but if it had been completed would undoubtably be the largest and most grand of all of them.

I have a lot of versions of various Bruckner symphonies, and especially a lot of good versions of the 4th, 8th, and 9th. Good versions of those three are easy to come by. Generally my favorite conductor has been Eugen Jochum, but I have versions by other acclaimed Bruckner conductors, including Furtwangler, some Karajan, Otto Klemperer, George Tinter, and Bruno Walter. But, in going back through my collection, I found that I didn't have really good versions of the 3rd, 5th, the 6th, or the 7th. (I have the full cycle by Jochum, but unfortunately not the DGC cycle. He did two, and the DGC is the really good one. I have copies of the 4th, 8th, and 9th from that cycle, but not the whole cycle of symphonies.)

Bruckner is one of those composers whose music only sounds really good with a really, really good conductor. It's easy to make Bruckner sound like crap, hard to make it sound like it's supposed to sound -- sublime, transcendent. I really liked the 5th, so I wanted to find a good version of that -- and I used to have one, conducted by Jascha Horenstein. This is one of the cds that was stolen from my car many many years ago. So I went to Amazon and ordered a new copy, and it was as good as I remembered.

I also ordered a copy of the 6th symphony conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. This was reputed to be one of the best versions of that symphony, and it really is. I'm learning to like this symphony quite a lot now. I'm not sure why it's usually considered one of the "lesser" Bruckner symphonies.

I still don't have a copy of the 7th that I really like. I have Klemperer's version, but it just doesn't grab me much. I've yet to figure out why the 7th is considered such a popular Bruckner symphony.

I've also picked up digital versions of two other conductors that I'd heard about before but knew little about. Takashi Asahina was a Japanese conductor who'd met Wilhelm Furtwangler and was a big fan of the Bruckner symphonies -- he recorded the complete cycle four times, more than anyone else. But all of his recordings are only sold in Japan, so he's not well known in the West. I find him a very good Bruckner conductor -- maybe not the best, but well worth listening to. And through the miracle of the internet, I finally can!

The other is Sergiu Celibidache. All I knew about him was that he conducted very slowly, and there wasn't a lot of information about him. I assumed this was because he wasn't considered a great conductor. In fact, it's because he was adamantly opposed to the recording process, and it wasn't until his death in 1996 that cds of his concerts began to be sold. Celibidache was a zen Buddist who believed a concert should be a transcendent experience (which a recording couldn't provide, in his opinion), and with Bruckner's music -- already designed to be transcendent -- he did things that no other conductor has done. His Brucker is often slowed down to a great degree, but you can hear every instrument and every note clearly.

Critic Jim Svedja wrote that "If you've never heard Furtwangler conduct Bruckner, then you've never experienced Bruckner at all." (He wrote that back while Celibidache was still alive). I'd add that if you haven't heard Celibidache conduct Bruckner, it's likely you still haven't experienced Bruckner. It's a completely different experience, and not to everyone's liking, but absolutely astounding for those who get it.

(And, quite frankly, Furtwangler could be a bit sloppy -- he botches the finale of the 8th in one recording of that symphony. It sounds like he's late for an appointment and just wants to get it all over with and get out of the concert hall.)

Anyway it's pretty cool that I was able to download an Asahina 8th and a Celibidache 5th and listen to them immediately. Technology is a wonderful thing. ^_^

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miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
miko2

December 2012

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