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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 6 in A major (1881)
Orchestre Métropolitain, Montréal/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
rec. Maison Symphonique de Montréal, December 2012
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 2639 [53:58] 

Yannick Nezet-Séguin has already established a notable international career. One of the composers with whom he has displayed the greatest affinity is Bruckner; this both in the concert hall and on record.
 
More than many symphonies, Bruckner's Sixth is not easy to bring off. That is not a criticism of the music, which is wholly worthy of the master who created it - and there can be no higher praise - but rather that there are certain aspects of its performance that represent a challenge to conductor and orchestra. As with other recorded interpretations, Nézet-Séguin's has its own particular characteristics. As with any great symphony, the music contains more than can be realised in any one interpretation.
 
The first movement has a strong sense of impetus, a relatively quick quasi-Allegro tempo asserted in the opening bars. However, the other aspects of the music are never compromised, and there is, for example, no lack of impressive sonority as the climaxes build. Dynamic shadings are well handled, and the phrasing is always sensitive to the musical line while exuding great personality too. The movement can be more powerful than this, not least in its big climax towards the end of the development section - compare with Otto Klemperer’s famous recording, EMI 4 04296 2, or Daniel Barenboim on Warner Elatus 2564 608022 2. In the context of the lively tempo - remember the direction is Maestoso, not Allegro - Nézet-Séguin is still able to shape the music with sensitivity as well as direction. As such he succeeds in finding the special mystery of the more evocative passages featuring quieter music, not least the marvellous and subtle rocking phrases involving the horns, shortly before the build up to the powerful coda.
 
Bruckner's Sixth has one of the great slow movements, and Nézet-Séguin's tempo for this Adagio strikes an appropriate balance between a flowing momentum and a serious tone. Inevitably the more sonorous passages capture the attention, for which all praise to the engineers and the musicians. In many respects though it is the quieter music that forms the jewel in the crown of this wonderful movement. A genuine pianissimo makes all the difference, and this performance finds it. The shaping of phrases is most sensitively done, in both the soaring lyricism of the string music of the second subject, or the restrained minor key funeral march of the third.
 
The scherzo has abundant rhythmic subtleties, while the finale is in many respects the most challenging movement. This is because there are some awkward changes of gear, which although skilfully written out can elude some interpreters. Nézet-Séguin is not among these, but nor does he gather in the contrasting elements closely in the aim of a single vision. As it is, the sheer momentum of the principal material, with its climax in characteristic rhythm, carries the day and achieves a most satisfying conclusion to a fine performance.  

Terry Barfoot 

Masterwork Index: Bruckner Symphony 6