Carlos Païta / Philharmonica Symphony Orchestra

Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"

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As Carlos Païta's scarce recordings are steadily being reissued in Lodia's special Païta Edition, it's possible to reassess the career of this dynamic Argentinian conductor, whose riveting performances generated an enthusiastic following. However, his 1987 live recording of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," is a disappointment, not because of Païta's interpretation or the playing of the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, but rather for the dismal audio. From the opening tremolos, it's apparent that the original recording equipment was low quality and possibly even a hand-held recorder. Not only did it produce a harsh and shallow sound, it seems to have been jostled and handled in such a way as to muffle many passages throughout the performance. Yet if one can bear the substandard sound and the distracting audience noises, Païta's brisk reading and the energetic playing of the Philharmonic may make up for them, because they hold interest throughout. While this fiery rendition flies in the face of a more stately and reverent interpretive tradition for Bruckner, there are many who would welcome the quicker tempos, which Païta usually favored. Bruckner's Fourth is quite effective when played quickly, and it is especially true in the Andante quasi allegretto, which most conductors treat as an Adagio. Païta's walking tempo keeps it from becoming a dirge, and preserves the performance's overall feeling of propulsion and excitement. This is a curiosity Brucknerians should hear at least once.

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