BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Donald Runnicles

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7

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If anything stands out in Donald Runnicles' reading of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E major with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, it is the efficiency of the performance. As if meeting a schedule, Runnicles maintains a strict sense of tempo that doesn't necessarily feel rushed yet doesn't seem appropriate to Bruckner's music, either. A tradition has developed in playing Bruckner's symphonies that allows for plenty of tempo rubato, as well as some freedom with his dramatic pauses, and a general ease of motion that is often described as gemütlich. Perhaps more than the other symphonies, the lyrical Seventh requires some flexibility in tempo and pacing, if only because of its highly expressive lines and ecstatically beautiful passages. But Runnicles allows little rapture in this performance, and the music is given little room to stretch out or breathe. While this performance puts every note in its place and sounds perfectly fine, it lacks the elasticity and flow that is most characteristic in Bruckner, and essential to the spirit of this work. The reproduction is excellent, capturing the orchestra's warmth and rich tone colors, but the close microphone also captured the conductor's vocalizations.

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