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Anton BRUCKNER (1824 - 1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor Wagner Symphony (1877)
Adagio from Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1876)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1889)
New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia/Johannes Wildner.
recorded in the Festspielhaus Recklinghausen, Germany, October 2001 - January 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.555928-29 [127’29"]


Naxos has, through these two discs, delivered a wonderful idea which should put Bruckner nuts forever in their debt. They have collected together all of the versions of Bruckner’s mighty third symphony except the 1870 one (which they have already released in the Georg Tintner series of Bruckner recordings, recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in cracking form). Thus, for the price of one premium disc, the collector can have almost the whole performing history of this symphony on three budget priced discs. This statement of course ignores the ‘tinkerings’ carried out by various so called improvers to Bruckner’s works.

The recording quality of the current discs is superb, delivering a good concert hall perspective, with the listener set far enough back in the hall for the warm acoustic to be clearly appreciated. In the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia we have one of those excellent regional German orchestras, this one having been established by combining two smaller orchestras in 1996. It has an extensive concert programme in the upper Ruhr region as well as being the pit orchestra at the Gelsenkirchen Opera Company. The conductor, Johannes Wildner has been their Generalmusikdirector since the orchestra’s formation. In that time he has accompanied them to the Far East and has conducted them in a number of recordings.

The orchestra has a superb brass section, ripe in the good German manner, which is ideal for Bruckner. This is balanced by a sweet string section which although not up to Vienna or Berlin standards is more than enjoyable. The woodwinds are forward and very effective., I enjoyed these discs immensely.

There is a freshness about the playing, which I find very attractive, and this may be the result of the orchestra finding Bruckner’s sound-world for the first time.

Bruckner’s Third Symphony has had a very chequered history since its initial completion. The composer was artistically smitten by Wagner and the work was dedicated to Wagner. The older composer spent a long while holding on to the score, without acknowledgement to the composer. Eventually, without a response from Wagner, the composer tried to mount a performance of the work in Vienna in 1877 after the earlier choice of conductor, Herbeck, died. Bruckner took the podium and was horrified to see that members of the audience left during the performance leaving only a few at the symphony’s end. The critics also savaged the work, Hanslick having written "We must humbly confess that we did not understand this gigantic symphony. Neither his poetic intention – perhaps a vision of Beethoven’s Ninth made friends with Wagner’s Walküre and wound up trampled under the hooves of their horses – nor was the purely musical structure clear to us." I suppose modern "classical music" has to put up with the same lack of understanding.

However, we have here superb performances of different versions of the Third, which I am sure many will enjoy immensely provided they can get past having more than one available at one time. For this Bruckner lover this is no problem whatsoever.

Well done Naxos, give us more like this!

John Phillips


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