When considering Carl Schuricht's 1938 recording of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic, it's best not to think too much about how many side breaks there were in the original release. Try not to remember that the opening Allegro moderato and the central Adagio took five sides each, meaning, in other words, that the performers had to stop four times while recording the most organic symphonic music ever composed so that Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft's engineers could slide a new 78 onto the lathe. If you think about it too much, it might spoil one of the finest performances of the work ever recorded.
Fortunately, Schuricht and the Berlin make that easy to forget. While hardly a celebrated conductor outside of Austria -- along with Bruckner and Brahms, he specialized in the music of the Strauss family -- Schuricht had a sure and steady hand with the baton and the sort of selfless and objective interpretive stance that has long since gone out of favor. With the magnificent Berlin Philharmonic, Schuricht's Seventh, like his later recordings of the Eighth and Ninth with the Vienna Philharmonic, is Bruckner at his best. Even with five sides each, the Allegro moderato builds with ineffable lyricism to luminous climaxes and the Adagio climbs with ineluctable spiritualism to the vault of heaven. Although it's true you can still hear the sides breaks through Hänssler's superbly remastered sound, they are not even speed bumps in Schuricht and the Berlin's wholly integrated performance. While clearly not the only recording of the Seventh anyone should hear -- there are several from Furtwängler, a handful from Jochum, and a Knapperstbusch that should probably come first -- anyone who knows and loves the Seventh and already has a dozen or so performances will welcome this one with open arms.