Bruckner: Symphony No. 2

Herbert von Karajan

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 Review

by James Leonard

Herbert von Karajan never recorded complete cycles of the symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, or Sibelius, but so great was his dedication to Anton Bruckner that he recorded all nine of the Austrian composer's numbered symphonies. (Apparently, he drew the line at the 0 and the 00 symphonies.) Musical Heritage Society has reissued Karajan's 1981 recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker of the Second Symphony in C minor. When originally released on Deutsche Grammophon, some listeners feared it might prove just a beautiful run-through, a superlatively played but interpretively empty performance made simply to finish the cycle. Karajan, though, seems fully involved and wholly committed to the work. Conflating the original 1872 version with its 1876 revision, Karajan seems as intent on plumbing the depths of this relatively early work as he was on scaling the heights of Bruckner's later symphonies. By stressing the work's lyricism without underplaying its vast architecture, Karajan makes a strong case for it, and the Berlin orchestra's super-virtuoso performance is supremely beautiful. Lushly recorded, this recording will likely thrill both fans of the composer and the conductor.

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