Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Bruckner: Symphony No. 3

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So maybe Nikolaus Harnoncourt's 1994 recording of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 wasn't the comedy record of the year, but it's still a really funny record. What else could one expect? After all, how likely was it that Harnoncourt would take seriously the most spiritual music composed in the nineteenth century when he'd made a laughing stock of Beethoven? And just because Harnoncourt and Bruckner were both Austrians, don't expect the conductor to be sympathetic to the composer, either. After all, how likely was it that Harnoncourt could be sympathetic to music by a short, fat peasant with delusions of musical grandeur when he'd already been antipathetic to Schubert? For whatever reason, Harnoncourt's Third is still a really funny record. He makes the opening movement's main theme sound laughably ponderous, makes its pauses sound ridiculously laborious, makes its final peroration absurdly clamorous, and makes the whole movement unbearably tedious. Indeed, Harnoncourt's interpretation of the whole symphony is apparently a pretentious, portentous, and pompous parody of Bruckner; the musicality of Duchamp's La Joconde aux Mustaches; and just about as funny. The Concertgebouw's attacks are unsteady, its ensemble is shaky, and its rhythms lurch. Teldec's sound is very big and very loud.

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