Kent Nagano / Bavarian State Orchestra

Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 4, 7 & 8

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Following the contemporary trend to perform Anton Bruckner's symphonies in their Urfassungen, or original versions, Kent Nagano has contributed mixed results to a growing list of recordings, which includes important interpretations by Georg Tintner, Eliahu Inbal, Simone Young, and Dennis Russell Davies, among others. Like them, Nagano has shown a preference for the more radical and innovative Bruckner, whose most daring efforts were the first versions of his Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," and the Symphony No. 8 in C minor, which are dramatically different from the later revisions, which gained canonical status in the century after the composer's death. But while Nagano is adventurous and willing to take chances, his interpretations are quite variable, sometimes striking the right tone and getting the most passionate and committed playing from the Bavarian State Orchestra, but seemingly without a consistent approach. In the Fourth, he is attentive to dynamics and phrasing and shows a keen sensitivity to details, but the performance isn't compelling enough to make the case for this version. The Eighth receives a powerful reading, though the odd first movement is too heavy and slow, and the thick sound of the recording is detrimental to the overall impression. Perhaps the most successful recording of the three in this Farao box set is of the lyrical Symphony No. 7 in E major, which is the 1885 version that everybody plays. Yet even here, Nagano doesn't quite plumb the emotional depths of the work, particularly in the Adagio, and in the end he offers a pleasant but safe reading.

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