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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 in E major (1881-83, rev. 1885) [59:20]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg - Act I Prelude (1868) [11.04]
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Otto Klemperer
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI (Wagner)/Otto Klemperer
rec. Herkulessaal, Munich, 12 April 1956 (Bruckner); Auditorium di Torino della RAI, 17 December 1956 (Wagner). ADD
MEDICI ARTS MM0302 [70:09]
Experience Classicsonline

Klemperer did a fair amount of recording for Walter Legge, often with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He had an affinity with Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, and conducted it often during his life, particularly during the later stage of his career. This, made in 1956 with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, is his first recording of the piece, which he then followed four years later by a recording with the Philharmonia, as well as producing other versions with the Vienna Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic in 1958 and the German Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1966.

One can immediately see that Klemperer has a good grasp of the symphony – although his is a rather cool and unemotional approach. The first movement, Allegro moderato, is brisk and unassuming – pleasantly fresh, in fact. A noble and dignified Adagio is followed by a penetrating Scherzo, and the Finale is again deliberate and precise, not at all slushy. 

Although this reading of the symphony may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is nonetheless a good and valid rendition. Klemperer is unsentimental even in the more romantic sections – he avoids being over-emotional and grandiose, and is often analytical and clear - especially in the woodwinds. Yet he nonetheless keeps a fair measure of majestic sweeps and the senses of urgency where necessary. The recorded sound is a bit thin – but this can be forgiven in a recording that is over fifty years old! 

The twinning of Bruckner’s Seventh with the Prelude to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg is an apt one, given that Bruckner, who owed much to Wagner, wrote the coda to the Adagio of the Seventh Symphony in Wagner’s memory as soon as he heard of the great composer’s death.

The recording here – of another live performance dating from 1956, is curiously mechanical and rather laboured, especially at the opening. Klemperer also adopts a sudden and rather extreme rallentando at the end, slamming on the brakes, which I don’t feel particularly enhances the music.

On the whole, however, this is an interesting disc and certainly worth a listen.

Em Marshall


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