Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 4 in E flat ("Romantic"), WAB 104

    Description by Wayne Reisig

    Bruckner's Fourth Symphony was the one which began a reversal of the composer's fortunes for the better. The Vienna premiere under Hans Richter in 1880 was a resounding success. So elated was the composer that after a very promising rehearsal he pressed a coin into the conductor's hand with the enjoinder to have a beer. At the performance, Bruckner was called out for a bow after each movement.

    The original version of 1874 was reworked into an almost totally new work, the most conspicuous changes being the replacement of the mysterious-sounding original scherzo with the now familiar "Hunting" one; a new finale subtitled "Volkfest" replaced the original, only to be replaced again with a less programmatic one two years later. Along with extensive reworking of the first two movements, these changes were all incorporated into the version most commonly known and performed today, being designated as the version of 1878-1880. A further 1887-1888 revision by Bruckner's pupils Lowe and Schalk has largely disappeared.

    The subtitle "Romantic" was derived from a program Bruckner was persuaded by friends to append to the work, evoking images of medieval knights, castles, hunting, and other things. That Bruckner halfheartedly accepted the suggestion may be divined from his reply to a query regarding the finale: "I've quite forgotten what image I had in mind." And yet, the first movement's designation of "Dawn at a medieval citadel...knights sally forth from the gates on proud chargers...the wonder of nature surrounds them..." is admittedly a bit appropriate. Against a mysterious tremolo a horn call emerges to be followed by the weighty and heroic main theme; a more idyllic "song period" follows, evocative of nature and replete with bird calls, followed in turn by a more imposing third subject; the movement's climax is a broad and blazing brass chorale which caps the development; the recapitulation ends with the horns powerfully repeating the symphony's opening notes against reiterated forte chords. The slow movement, a softly-treading andante in lieu of the usual Bruckner adagio, is said to represent a tryst of two medieval lovers; this alternates with a more spiritual chorale-like episode and works up to a climax for full orchestra which seems to invoke heroism more than romance. The following scherzo is perhaps the only undisputed tone-painting in the symphony, a rollicking, thundering depiction of a medieval hunt which is a tour-de-force for the horns; the trio is one of Bruckner's most engaging Ländlers, saturated with the serenity of the countryside. The finale of the 1880 version is expansive and episodic, commencing with a prolonged crescendo of an introduction and erupting into a theme derived from the opening of the symphony; a relaxed, winsome second theme alternates with passages of Wagnerian intensity and occasional fleeting references to the preceding movements; the long coda is a typically Brucknerian workup to a sonorous tapestry of sound with the work's opening motive woven into the fabric, bringing to a close what is often deemed the first of Bruckner's mature symphonies.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell
    2. Andante, quasi allegretto
    3. Scherzo. Bewegt - Trio. Nicht zu schnell, keinesfalls schleppend
    4. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795805
    2016 CPO CPO 5550232
    2016 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13037
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Carlos Païta Edition CP 805
    2015 Reference Recordings FR 713SACD
    2015 Savoy UMI_00795041610
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 025
    2015 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186520
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Sony Classical 88843047122
    2014 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13049
    2014 Warner Classics 2564633622
    2014 Naxos 8501205
    2014 Wienerworld 01367
    2013 Warner Classics
    2013 Warner Classics 81787
    2013 Farao Classics B 108074
    2013 Farao Classics A 108076
    2013 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186450
    2013 Warner Classics 61891
    2013 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894791046GB41
    2013 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Andromeda ANDRCD 9105
    2012 Oehms Classics OC 407
    2012 Teldec / Warner Classics 2564656263
    2012 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 09025
    2012 Apex 2564659422
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    2012 Querstand VKJK 1018
    2012 Signum Classics SIGCD 256
    2012 Archipel ARPCD 0481
    2012 Music & Arts MA 1262
    2012 Naxos 8501057
    2011 LSO Live LSO 0716
    2011 ATMA Classique ACD 22667
    2011 BR Klassik 900711
    2011 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4779803
    2011 Warner Classics 680225
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909796225
    2011 CPO CPO 7776152
    2011 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 11028
    2011 Music & Arts MA 1256
    2011 Membran 233373
    2011 Decca 4782826
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 7776582
    2010 Testament 1448
    2010 GLOR Classics 9231
    2010 Teldec 256468022-8
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 BIS 1746
    2010 Sony Classical 88697806152
    2009 Music & Arts MACD1227
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Oehms Classics 629
    2009 Landscape Classics / Zebralution
    2009 Coviello Classics 30814
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 RCO / RCO Live 09002
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Sony Classical Essential Classics 736881
    2009 Dal Segno 045
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 BBC Legends / BBC Music / Medici Arts 42642
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4777580
    2008 Farao Classics 108051
    2008 Analekta 29916
    2008 G.O.P. 77401
    2008 Berlin Classics 0017212BC
    2008 Haenssler 93218
    2008 Decca 4753312
    2008 Music & Arts MACD1209
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 Golden Melodram 40086
    2008 ZYX Classics / ZYX Music 100532
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951203
    2007 DG Deutsche Grammophon 004400734325
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4236772
    2007 Andromeda 9010
    2007 EMI Classics 81761
    2007 Andromeda ANDRCD 9008
    2007 Decca 000894902
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946384723
    2007 Elatus
    2007 Lucerne Festival 7640125120455
    2007 Exton 00248
    2007 Arch Entertainment 5186321
    2007 Warner Classics
    2007 Medici Arts 1
    2007 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 6046
    2007 Documents 231060
    2006 Preiser Records 90304
    2006 Berlin Classics 0185392
    2006 LPO 14
    2006 Harmonia Mundi 901921
    2006 Apex
    2006 Decca 442 040-2PB9
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Haenssler 93140
    2006 Preiser Records 90679
    2005 Arte Nova 604880
    2005 Brilliant 92084
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Designo 222505
    2005 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 5020
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Archipel 0134
    2005 Universal Distribution 000412402
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Philips 000530902
    2005 Artone 222604
    2005 Golden Melodram 40074
    2004 Oehms 207
    2004 Berlin Classics 0013192BC
    2004 Oehms 213
    2004 Arte Nova Classics 82876604882
    2004 Rca Red Seal 60395
    2004 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4775136
    2004 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2004 Testament 1340
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 85801
    2004 Haenssler 93145
    2004 Ondine 1030
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62816
    2004 Warner Music 61891
    2004 Sony Music Distribution 92460
    2004 Document 203184
    2003 NM Classics 97017
    2003 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000001302
    2003 Decca 448098
    2003 Testament 1298
    2003 Document 220822
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 75950
    2003 Document 205229
    2003 History 45515
    2002 Philips 4705372
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74837
    2002 Living Stage 4035164
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 574942
    2002 Naxos 501101
    2002 Rca Red Seal 90114
    2002 Orfeo 559022
    2002 RCA 93041
    2001 Arte Nova 85290
    2001 DG Deutsche Grammophon 459663
    2001 Audiophile Records 543
    2001 Archipel 25
    2001 Classica d'Oro 1006
    2001 Music & Arts CD1072
    2001 Urania 177
    2001 History 205241
    2000 Angel Records / Warner Classics 7243573905
    2000 T-Rax Basic Classics 12
    2000 Teldec 81787
    2000 Lys 7/8
    2000 Supraphon 34672
    2000 RCA 902668839
    2000 Amadis 7176
    2000 Living Stage 34718
    1999 DG Deutsche Grammophon 427200
    1999 Iron Needle 1344
    1999 Decca 466374
    1999 Iron Needle 1414
    1999 Teldec 17126
    1999 Naxos 554128
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 73426
    1999 Pearl 9131
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 56690
    1998 EMI Classics 556688
    1998 DG Deutsche Grammophon 453100
    1998 Sony Classical Essential Classics 63301
    1998 Angel Records 66866
    1998 Music & Arts 1028
    1998 Tahra 320/22
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon 449718
    1997 Golden Melodram 40008
    1997 Point Classics 267128
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 66556
    1997 Carlton Classics 00282
    1996 Camerata Records CMSE431-442
    1996 Berlin Classics 0011612
    1996 Berlin Classics 0092772
    1996 London 448910
    1996 Testament 1050
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 66094
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 64481
    1996 Sirio 530013
    1996 Memories 3001
    1996 Dutton Laboratories 5007
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 66249
    1995 Vox 5520
    1995 Seraphim UK 568527
    1995 London 443327
    1995 Royal Classics 6479
    1995 ZYX Music 4123
    1994 Preiser Records 90226
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 55119
    1993 DG Deutsche Grammophon 439522
    1993 Music & Arts CD-796
    1993 Music & Arts 249
    1993 Teldec 73272
    1992 Archiphon 24
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 47653
    1992 Naxos 550154
    1991 DG Deutsche Grammophon 431719
    1990 RCA 60075
    1990 Orfeo D'Or 229901B
    1990 Telarc Distribution 80244
    1989 DG Deutsche Grammophon 429079
    1980 Tahra 162
    History 204560
    EMI Music Distribution 62935
    Magic Talent 48068
    Arkadia 591
    Philharmonia of the Nations 22
    6w 23
    Brilliant 92084/4
    London 433340
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 459665
    London 425613
    Magic Master 37080
    EMI Classics 76887
    CBS Records 46505
    Teldec 42960
    Palladio 4105
    Melodiya 32115
    ICONE 9429
    EMI 69127
    London 410550
    Virgin Classics 91206
    EMI Music Distribution 69795
    EMI Classics 14111
    Andromeda 2502
    Teldec 77597
    Carlton 91712
    Denon Records 7126
    Ars Musici 1120
    Arkadia 751
    Cin Cin 1033
    RCA 60784
    Vox Allegretto 8147
    Artists 66
    Centurion Classics 10005
    Document 220826-303
    FED 066
    Grammofono 2000 78563
    Document 205234
    Document 203187303
    Enterprise 4147
    Enterprise 939
    Arlecchino 175
    Arlecchino 107
    History 205245
    London 433330