Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Lovro von Matacic

Bruckner: Symphony No. 5

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Because Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 in B flat major is one of his longest and most episodic works, broken up into many expository sections that anticipate the subjects in the massive fugue of the Finale, a conductor must devise a strategy for making it a coherent whole. Lovro von Matacic was an expert in conducting Bruckner's symphonies, and he understood that the best way to present the music was to minimize the numerous pauses between sections and to structure the music through expansive phrasing. For the most part, his plan succeeds in this 1970 recording with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and gives the Fifth the connectedness that it needs to be comprehensible. All the same, there will be some listeners who will find that Matacic's efforts are insufficient for solving Bruckner's continuity problems, and that the piece's starts and stops, especially in the first movement, are still too egregious and unmanageable, no matter how careful Matacic was in preparing the symphony's trajectory. Other than this, the orchestra sounds remarkably full, dynamically varied, and often quite colorful, and it has enough stamina to push ahead with energy, particularly in the last two movements. So if getting through the desultory first movement and the long Adagio requires some patience, the Scherzo definitely picks up steam and there is a worthwhile payoff in the exciting Finale. This Supraphon reissue has surprisingly clean and lifelike sound for an ADD recording.

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