Stefan Blunier / Beethoven Orchester Bonn

Anton Bruckner: Symphony D minor "Nullte"; 3 Pieces WAB 97; March WAB 96

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Because it was mistakenly thought to date prior to the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Anton Bruckner's Symphony in D minor (1869) was given the peculiar designation of "No. 0," even though it was actually his third completed symphony, written after the First and the so-called "Study" Symphony in F minor. Compounding this confusion was Bruckner's singular marking of the symphony as "gilt nicht," or "not valid," and marked one copy with the empty set symbol (Ø), which presumably means that he withdrew it. All the same, he preserved it, along with all of his original manuscripts; even though he never thought highly enough of this composition to revise it, as he did with his later symphonies, it survived intact and has become part of his canon, despite comparatively few performances and recordings. This audiophile release from MDG by Stefan Blunier and the Beethoven Orchester Bonn presents the Symphony in D minor with great audio clarity and sympathetic playing, and their exciting rendition reveals that this mildly flawed work contains a great deal of worthy music. Indeed, much of its flavor and style, as well as some developmental ideas and fleeting melodies, will seem to have been more fully elaborated in the Symphony No. 3 (1873), also composed in D minor, which was possibly Bruckner's attempt to make a more satisfactory symphony in that key. This live performance certainly elevates the work, and listeners who care to explore it will find that Blunier and the Beethoven Orchestra have delivered a first-rate interpretation. The filler -- a March in D minor and the Three Pieces, all from 1862 -- were Bruckner's fledgling attempts at writing orchestral music. While they vaguely hint at the massive symphonic cycle to come, they really are minor studies, reminiscent of Schubert and Mendelssohn, that only merit a place here for curiosity's sake.

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