Thomas Zehetmair / Musikkollegium Winterthur

Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 D minor (Version 1877)

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Of the several revisions of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 in D minor that have been regularly performed and recorded, the 1877 version has had defenders, though it is by no means as established in the concert hall as the 1889 version, nor has it been championed by younger conductors who favor Urtext Bruckner, particularly the original version of 1873, replete with its Wagner quotations. Thomas Zehetmair's decision to play the 1877 version with the Swiss chamber orchestra Musikkollegium Winterthur for MDG probably won't raise many eyebrows, though the choice of tempos, transparent instrumental colors, and streamlined orchestral textures may startle dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists, who like their Bruckner homogenous, weighty, and slow. Zehetmair's recording is efficiently paced and lasts barely over 50 minutes, where other recordings tend to be longer by ten minutes or so, and the tempos are noticeably brisk and even agitated. Since the accretions of early 20th century Teutonic practice have given Bruckner's symphonies considerable baggage -- excessively reverent treatment for supposed religious content, or simple monumentality for the sake of sounding Wagnerian -- the historical situation suggests that a late 19th century orchestra might have sounded more like Zehetmair's reduced forces, with minimal vibrato in the strings and distinctive woodwind timbres, and the results might have been closer to what is heard here. This is a clear-headed and clean take on the Third, aided by MDG's unprocessed super audio sound and the balanced acoustics of the Stadtkirche Winterthur, which keep the music sounding radiant without blurring details. Revelatory and highly recommended, especially for listeners who dismiss Bruckner as stodgy.

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