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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 6, WAB 106 (1881 version; ed. Josef Venantius von Wöss, 1927)
New Japan Philharmonic/Toshiyuki Kamioka
rec. live 19 April 2018, Suntory Hall, Tokyo and 22 April 2018, Minato-Mirai Hall, Yokohama
EXTON OVCL-00696 SACD [58:59]

Earlier this year, I reviewed Kamioka’s recording of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, finding it to be satisfactory but hardly competitive with the best, all of which use either the Haas or Nowak editions, which are not significantly different.

This latest issue from the same source is apparently the only recording of the version edited by Josef Wöss as part of a complete edition of Bruckner symphonies published Universal-Edition A.G in 1927; I quote here from José Oscar de Almeida Marques’ excellent synopsis of the various versions of Bruckner’s symphonies regarding the “[s]lightly revised version [made] by C. Hynais for the publication by Doblinger in 1899 (First Edition). Although Hynais work was careful, the final printed text contains many errors and changes introduced by an unknown hand. Another edition of this version, prepared by Wöss, was published in 1927.” I do not know why the conductor chose to record this rare edited version but obviously it is a novelty. I cannot in all honesty hear any difference, although sight of a score might reveal more to the practised eye.

This is a live, composite recording derived from two concert performances in Tokyo and Yokohama respectively. There is no question but that the sound is first-rate and there are no audience intrusions that I can hear, but Kamioka’s habit of groaning loudly along with the music does not enhance the listener’s pleasure. The orchestral playing is technically excellent; ensemble is flawless. However – and this is the big caveat – I find that proceedings are devoid of magic and atmosphere; everything is in place but musically nothing is happening beyond the correct execution of the notes. To check my response, for purposes of comparison I switched to recordings celebrated for their personality and even their eccentricities, such as those by Klemperer, Sawallisch and Ballot and back to Schaller’s which is characterised by its “rightness” and a sense of occasion. Sure enough, the “Majestoso” quality in those recordings emerges via their phrasing and dynamics, creating a sense of tension and expectation via mostly indefinable but nonetheless perceptible means. Whether or not Bruckner’s sobriquet for his symphony, “Die Keckste”, is apt, there should at least be an air of momentum about proceedings and to me Kamioka’s direction produces fairly slack results.

The Adagio suffers from a similarly enervated pulse; its lyricism is muted and its climaxes do not build and hit home with sufficient impact, nor is the requisite sense of serene transcendence in the conclusion achieved. The Scherzo is dull, lacking rhythmic spring and dynamic variation. The last movement is perhaps the most difficult of Bruckner’s finales to bring off, as conferring coherence on its assemblage of surging motifs can prove challenging; this, Kamioka does well, making this the most successfully accomplished of the four movements, but he does not achieve the same tautness as Schaller or Sawallisch, who, like almost all the conductors who have recorded this symphony, both take a minute or two less over it. Its rousing conclusion is certainly enjoyable but the virtues of this recording remain pedestrian compared with my favourite versions.

Ralph Moore
(This review commissioned and reproduced here by kind permission of The Bruckner Journal)

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