Bruckner: Symphony No. 4; Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude

Andris Nelsons / Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 4; Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude Review

by Blair Sanderson

Recordings of Anton Bruckner's symphonies have increasingly acquired an air of mystery and difficulty due to their extraordinary length, harmonic complexity, and the vagaries surrounding the multiple versions and various published editions, which conductors champion for different reasons. Yet Andris Nelsons seems to have taken the path of least resistance with his live recording of the Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," which he presents with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in a proudly conventional reading. Not only is the 1878/1880 version one of the most widely accepted and most frequently performed and recorded, Nelsons also serves up a rather traditional interpretation that harks back to mid-20th century standards. To be sure, Nelsons is committed, consistent, and coherent, and his choices of tempos and dynamics are convincing, though he shows no interest in observing period practices or re-creating the techniques and sonorities of Bruckner's day. Instead, Nelsons delivers a "Romantic" that more closely resembles models set by Klemperer, Jochum, Wand, Tennstedt, and other traditional Brucknerians. The inclusion of Richard Wagner's Prelude to Act I from Lohengrin provides a reminder of Bruckner's unwanted role in the "War of the Romantics," though Nelsons appears to have made this pairing of composers a continuing feature of his Bruckner recordings. This album, and Nelsons' 2017 release of the Symphony No. 3 in D minor with the Overture to Tannhäuser, are part of a projected series for Deutsche Grammophon that promises to be one of the most popular of mainstream Bruckner cycles.

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