Bruckner: Symphony No. 5 (SACD review)

Lance Friedel, London Symphony Orchestra. MSR Classics MS 1600.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: listening to a Bruckner symphony can take patience. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Austrian organist and composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) wrote long, often massive symphonies. His musical output came in the middle of the nineteenth century, a little after Beethoven's time and overlapping early Mahler. We see Bruckner building on the longer works of Beethoven, especially the Ninth Symphony, and the more epic proportions of Wagner. Later, we would see Mahler adopting some of Bruckner's lengthier concepts.

And there's another part of the equation: Beyond hewing to the conventional four-movement structures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Bruckner ventured into new harmonic, even dissonant styles. There are times when the listener must sit and wait almost in vain for a major thematic element to present itself, and then wait even longer for Bruckner to develop it. Nevertheless, when performed by the right people, Bruckner's music can be quite satisfying, reaching heights of spiritual ecstasy seldom attempted by other composers. Among the conductors who have brought me a personal measure of joy with their Bruckner recordings are Eugen Jochum, Otto Klemperer, Herbert von Karajan, Karl Bohm, Bruno Walter, Gunter Wand, Herbert Blomstedt, Bernard Haitink, and Sir Roger Norrington, among others.

Enter Lance Friedel. The first and only other time I had heard a recording by Maestro Friedel was on an album entitled Great Comedy Overtures, which I quite liked. While Friedel might not have been facing such demanding material in the overtures as he is on the present disc, he invested a good deal of enthusiasm in the project and offered up a frothy collection of lightweight tunes.

Here, Maestro Friedel tackles the formidable Symphony No. 5, which Bruckner wrote between 1875 and 1876, but which he never heard performed in his lifetime by an orchestra. (A non-authenticated version premiered in 1894, but Bruckner was too ill to attend.) The work didn't even get a complete commercial recording until 1937, when Karl Bohm did it with the Dresden Staatskapelle. All of this may seem surprising when you consider that the Fifth followed upon the success of his Fourth Symphony, but it's possible the composer never felt satisfied with the Fifth, leaving it uncompleted at his death. Various musical scholars edited it later, with Maestro Friedel using the version by Leopold Nowak from 1951. As time went on, people came to know the piece as the "Tragic," "Church of Faith," or the "Pizzicato" symphony.

Lance Friedel
Anyway, the work begins with a very slow, very soft introduction, so soft that on the present recording you may wonder when it's ever going to begin. But the slow pizzicato strings soon give way to an abrupt eruption fortissimo and then on through a series of harmonious passages to a heady Allegro, all of which Friedel handles smoothly, gracefully, and without undue fuss. In fact, this is among the more-lyrical interpretations you'll find, even though Friedel retains the music's stately, august outlines and ends the segment most nobly. What's more, the London Symphony is up to its usual high standards, even if they don't quite sound as lush or rich as the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan.

Next, we have an Adagio: Sehr langsam, or a slow movement Bruckner expects the performers to take "very slowly," indeed. Interestingly, Bruckner uses the same basic themes for both the slow movement and the third-movement Scherzo, as well as alternating themes throughout the movement, and the juxtapositions make a fascinating experience, particularly as Friedel manages them. The following Scherzo itself moves along at a steadily contrasting pace under his direction, the tempos continually changing but effortlessly so. I have no doubt this section of the symphony must have inspired something in Mahler.

Like the first movement, Bruckner's finale begins slowly and softly, again with pizzicato strings soon permitting a moderate Allegro to develop. This has always been my favorite part of the symphony, and Maestro Friedel does it justice. While it dances and sparkles under Friedel's guidance on the one hand, it retains its regal grandeur throughout.

Even though the Fifth is a long symphony (Bruckner's second longest), Friedel's brisk but pleasurable handling of things brings it in at a little over seventy-three minutes, one of the quickest I've heard. Yet it never sounds particularly rushed or hurried. Although it may not convey all the spacious majesty of Klemperer's interpretation; the burnished glow of Karajan's realization; the mystery and atmosphere of Walter's, Wand's, or Blomstedt's versions; or the clean, direct lines of Haitink's reading, there is a fine sense of urgency about Friedel's account, captured in cogent, insistent, well-controlled rhythms and dynamics. It is definitely a disc I'll be returning to from time to time and one well worth a Bruckner fan's consideration.

Producer Tim Handley and engineer Phil Rowlands recorded the album at All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London in January 2014. They engineered it for hybrid SACD/CD playback, so one can listen to it in two-channel stereo or multichannel using an SACD player or two-channel stereo using a regular CD player. I listened in the SACD 2-channel mode.

My only quibble with the sound is minor: it's that occasionally it can appear a touch hard or edgy in the upper midrange. That said, it's mostly exemplary, with good detail, just the right amount of lower midrange warm, a decent but not over-pronounced stereo spread, a sweet hall ambience, a fine depth of image, respectably strong impact, and a healthy degree of overall transparency. It's among the better-recorded Bruckner Fifths I've heard.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


Classical Music News of the Week, June 24, 2017

Mozaic in San Luis Obispo

July 19-30: Music, Wine, Beaches and Trails.

It's easier than ever to get to SLO. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the Central Coast of California, beautiful San Luis Obispo County is now also accessible with two new direct flights: fly to/from Denver and Seattle nonstop. The SLO Airport also connects with LAX, SFO and Phoenix.

You can also take a classic California roadtrip to get here. Join us. Enjoy the journey and relax with us once you reach your destination. The music is waiting.

Opening Weekend Package:
Join us in SLO for the opening weekend of the 2017 Festival, July 21-23, 2017.
Fringe Concert: Simply Three (String Trio Covers Pop Songs of Today)
Midday Mini-Concert: John Novacek, piano & Erik Arvinder, violin
Orchestra Concert: Baroque in the Vines at Serra Chapel
Fringe Concert: Fire and Grace (Celtic/Folk/Classical)
Notable Encounter Dinner: The Genius of Beethoven

2017 Midweek Package:
Orchestra Concert: Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Midday Mini-Concert: Grace Park, violin & Noam Elkies, piano
Chamber Concert: Beethoven Quartets
Benefit Dinner in the Plaza: Big Sky Cafe with Claiborne & Churchill Wines
Orchestra Concert: Classical Evolutio (Mozart Symphony No. 40 & Beethoven Symphony No. 1)
Notable Encounter: Brahms Clarinet Quintet
Chamber Concert: Winds of Change

2017 Closing Weekend Package:
Attend the closing weekend of the 2017 Festival, July 28-30.
Fringe Concert: The Jazz Age (Silent Movies + Live Music)
Notable Encounter: On Stage with Strauss
Picnic in the Courtyard: SLO Provisions & Vines on the Marycrest
Orchestra Concert: Metamorphosis & Reformation
Notable Encounter Brunch: The French Connection
Chamber Concert: Scott Yoo & Friends

For complete information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/events

--Marketing, Festival Mozaic

Cal Performances Presents Asian Youth Orchestra with Violinist Sarah Chang
Cal Performances at UC Berkeley welcomes the Asian Youth Orchestra with guest soloist, violinist Sarah Chang to Zellerbach Hall on Saturday, August 5 at 8pm. Asia's premier pre-professional orchestra, the ensemble features 107 young musicians from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, who convene during the summer for a demanding schedule of rehearsals and international touring. Co-founder and artistic director Richard Pontzious conducts the orchestra for Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, R. Strauss's Don Juan, and Sibelius's Violin Concerto.

Beethoven's finely wrought and exuberant Seventh Symphony premiered in 1813 during a fertile creative period for the composer. The inventive orchestrations in Don Juan, Strauss' technically demanding orchestral tone poem, launched the composer's career after its premiere in 1889. Sibelius's lyrical and virtuosic Violin Concerto (1904, revised 1905), his only concerto, has become of the most popular violin concertos composed in the 20th century.

Tickets for the Asian Youth Orchestra with Sarah Chang on Saturday, August 5 at 8pm in Zellerbach Hall range from $36–86 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at calperformances.org, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to calperformances.org/discounts.

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

Bang on a Can All-Stars & Chinese Superstar Singer Gong Linna
Bang on a Can continues its 30th anniversary landmark season with a performance by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Chinese superstar singer Gong Linna presented by Lincoln Center Festival on July 14 and 15, 2017 at 8pm at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (524 W. 59th St.). A spectacular journey into Chinese myths and ancient poetry, Cloud River Mountain combines the stories of the past with the sounds of the future. In a rare U.S. appearance, Gong Linna joins the Bang on a Can All-Stars in a brilliantly staged concert of new music composed by Gong Linna's musical partner, composer Lao Luo, and Bang on a Can co-artistic directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe. Gong Linna and the All-Stars' recording of Cloud River Mountain on Cantaloupe Music will be available for purchase at the performances in advance of the album's worldwide release date of July 21, 2017.

Now in its 30th year, Bang on a Can is committed more than ever to an increasing and inclusive world-wide community dedicated to innovation through music; a world where ideas flow freely across boundaries; musical, geographical, spiritual. Co-founders Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe explain, "Thirty years ago we started dreaming of the world we wanted to live in. It would be a kind of utopia for music: all the boundaries between composers would come down, all the boundaries between genres would come down, all the boundaries between musicians and audience would come down. Then we started trying to build it. Building a utopia is a political act – it pushes people to change. It is also an act of resistance to the things that keep us apart."

Friday, July 14 & Saturday, 15, 2017 at 8pm
Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College | 524 W. 59th St., NYC
Tickets: $25-55 at www.lincolncenterfestival.org

For more information, visit http://bangonacan.org/

--Christina Jensen PR

NEA Awards Grant to American Bach Soloists
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman, Jane Chu, has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA's second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants, including an Art Works award of $15,000 to American Bach Soloists to support the 2017 ABS Festival & Academy.

"The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America's artists and arts organizations," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as American Bach Soloists, in serving their communities by providing excellent and accessible arts experiences."

The public events of the 2017 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy will be held August 4 through August 13 in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and St Mark's Lutheran Church (S.F.). For more information visit sfbachfestival.org or americanbach.org.

--American Bach Soloists

This Week at the Miami Music Festival
Zarzuela Project
Saturday, June 24th
9:00 P.M.
Andy Gato Gallery, Barry University
Tickets- $10

MMF Opera Scenes
Sunday, June 25th
2:00 P.M.
Weber Hall, Barry University
Tickets- $15

Tales of Hoffman
June 29, 2017 | July 1, 2017
7:30 P.M.
Tickets- $15-35
Shepard and Ruth K. Broad Preforming Arts Center, Barry University
11300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores, FL 33161

Cunning Little Vixen
June 30, 2017 | July 2, 2017
7:30 P.M.
Tickets- $15-35
Shepard and Ruth K. Broad Preforming Arts Center, Barry University
11300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores, FL 33161

Independence Day Celebration
July 4,2017
6:00 P.M.
Tickets $15-$35
Shepard and Ruth K. Broad Preforming Arts Center, Barry University
11300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores, FL 33161

The Miami Wagner Institute
July 22, 2017
7:30 P.M.
Tickets- $40-60
The Adrienne Arsht Center
1300 Biscayne Blvd,, Miami, FL 33132

For tickets and information, visit http://www.arshtcenter.org/Tickets/Calendar/2016-2017-Season/Miami-Music-Festival/Miami-Music-Festival/#videoModal

--Leticia Rivera, Miami Music Festival

An Unforgettable Experience Awaits...at Serra Chapel in Shandon
Festival Mosaic: Baroque in the Vines
Saturday, July 22, 2017, 7:30 PM

Scott Yoo leads the Festival Orchestra in a program celebrating baroque masterpieces at the enchanting setting of Serra Chapel (formerly Chapel Hill), a private chapel built from historical artifacts from the Hearst Collection. The grounds open at 6 p.m. for picnicking and enjoying the beautiful views at this remote, one-of-a-kind location before you relax into an evening of resplendent music.

For tickets and information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/

--Festival Mosaic

Emerson String Quartet's Music-Theater Hybrid at the Tanglewood Music Festival
On Wednesday, July 19 at 8 PM, the world-renowned Emerson String Quartet joins a cast of seven actors, including actors David Strathairn (Temple Grandin, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Jay  O. Sanders (The Day After Tomorrow, Green Lantern), for the new theatrical production Shostakovich and The Black Monk: A Russian Fantasy at the Seiji Ozawa Hall at the Tanglewood Music Festival.

Co-commissioned by Tanglewood Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and Princeton University Concerts, Shostakovich and The Black Monk: A Russian Fantasy received its world premiere at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival on June 17, 2017. Written and directed with great imagination and wit by James Glossman, this production is a timely and interesting discourse concerning the suppressive influence on culture in Stalin's Russia. A fantasy based on Shostakovich's 50-year obsession with creating an opera from Anton Chekhov's short story "The Black Monk," this play portraits the composer's life-long struggle for freedom and sanity against his own demons. Described by James Glossman as a "Valentine to the human spirit," it incorporates a vivid sarcastic edge to the oppressive Russian society that inspired many of Shostakovich's compositions.

For more information, visit http://greatlakeschambermusic.org/blackmonk/

-- Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates Inc.

NEA Awards Orpheus Chamber Orchestra $40,000 Art Works Grant
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA's second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award of $40,000 to Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to launch a 2018 nationwide tour, further their education and community initiatives, and introduce the new Orpheus Music Academy training program. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

"We are thrilled and honored to be awarded this funding," said Orpheus Executive Director Alexander Scheirle. "We are grateful to the NEA for their longstanding recognition of the orchestra's artistry, and look very much forward to sharing the joy of music-making with communities across America."

For more information, visit www.orpheusnyc.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Los Angeles Master Chorale To Be Inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame
The Los Angeles Master Chorale will be inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame on Thursday night during its Lux Aeterna 20th Anniversary celebration concert. This honor will be accepted by Artistic Director Grant Gershon and President & CEO Jean Davidson on behalf of the Master Chorale from the stage of their iconic home, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It joins previous esteemed inductees in the ensembles category such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Handel and Haydn Society.

The American Classical Music Hall of Fame (ACMHF) was founded in 1996 and is based in Cincinnati. It seeks to build and sustain enthusiasm for classical music in America by celebrating diverse facets of classical music excellence. Over 100 ensembles and individual musicians and composers have been inducted. The Los Angeles Master Chorale was selected by the Board of Directors earlier this month in recognition of its contributions to classical music.

For more inforation, visit http://lamasterchorale.org/

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angels Master Chorale

Stream As One for Free
In celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month, AOP is making available to the public the video of its 2014 World Premiere production of the opera As One, streaming from June 23-30, 2017 on the AOP website.

As One, with music and concept by Laura Kaminsky, an original libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, and film by Ms. Reed chronicles the experiences of a transgender person with empathy and wit as she emerges into harmony with the world around her.

www.aopopera.org/AsOne/worldpremiere

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Mozart's Idomeneo Comes to "Great Performances at the Met"
Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts an extraordinary ensemble in Idomeneo, Mozart's early masterpiece of love and vengeance following the Trojan War on "Great Performances at the Met" Sunday, July 16 at 12 p.m. on PBS.

Tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role of the King of Crete, with mezzo-soprano Alice Coote in the trouser role of his noble son Idamante, soprano Elza van den Heever as Elettra, and soprano Nadine Sierra as Ilia.

For additional information, visit "Great Performances" online at www.pbs.org/gperf

--Harry Forbes, WNET

Mozart: The Four Horn Concerti (CD review)

Albert Linder, horn; Hans Swarowsky, Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Vanguard/Amadeus AMD 7012.

Can we really have too many recordings of Mozart's four horn concerti? Probably not, at least not when musicians play them so well as they do here. I must admit I fell in love with these sweet, leisurely renditions from Albert Linder the first time I heard them, which was some years after he recorded them in 1961 with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Of course, nothing has yet to top Dennis Brain's performances from a little more than a half dozen years earlier, but Brain's recording is in monaural, and I can understand people today wanting only stereo. This one seems to me as good as any.

The agenda begins with No. 3, the most poetically lyrical of the lot. It is also the most profound and, in its way, perhaps the most mature. Certainly, it is the most complex. I suppose the album producer chose it to lead off the program because it demonstrates Linder's relaxed, conservative style better than the others. Not that Linder's pace sounds slow; it just sounds right. Even the closing Allegro, normally a robust hunting motif, sounds easygoing in Linder's hands. No. 4 follows, also in the restful style of an earlier age. These interpretations are in marked contrast to many more modern ones that go at the music with wildly unrestrained tempos.

Albert Linder
The program continues in reverse order with No. 2 second to last and No. 1 bringing up the rear. There is no particular reason why one needs to place the First Horn Concerto first; Mozart wrote the concertos several years apart and probably never expected orchestras to play them in sequence, if, indeed, anyone played them all together in the first place. Anyway, No. 1 is the simplest, most straightforward of the bunch, and in many ways the most charming. In spite of Linder's seemingly languid pace, it, too, comes off effortlessly. The entire enterprise has a most appealing attitude of repose about it that can draw one in whether one likes it or not.

The disc is in Vanguard's Amadeus line, meaning it was a favorite recording of its producer (and Vanguard co-founder), Seymour Solomon. The high-definition 24-bit transfer makes the audio appear much newer than it is, the orchestra sounding clean and fresh, if a little bright and hard, the horn sounding even more round and dulcet than usual by comparison. There is almost no background noise to intrude on the proceedings.

Overall, this is an issue that every Mozart fan might want to investigate.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa