Vladimir Ashkenazy

Anton Bruckner: Symphony in F minor; Adagio

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Just try to imagine it: Vladimir Ashkenazy -- the Russian piano virtuoso specializing in the voluptuous Rachmaninov -- conducting Bruckner -- the Austrian composer of the most spiritual music of the nineteenth century. And Ashkenazy is not even conducting top-drawer Bruckner, but the Symphony in F minor from 1863, the dreaded "double zero," the symphony Bruckner wrote so he could figure out how to write a symphony. Who in the world would want to hear Ashkenazy conduct Bruckner? Anyone who loves great Bruckner, that's who. Okay, so the Symphony in F minor is still a terrible work, but Ashkenazy and the Deutscher-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin do everything that can be done for it or any other work: they perform it with competence and conviction. But the great Bruckner on this disc is Ashkenazy and the Deutscher-Symphonie's performance of the Adagio from Bruckner's String Quintet transcribed for string orchestra by Fritz Oeser. The Adagio is top-drawer Bruckner from 1885 and Ashkenazy conducts it with the fervor of Furtwängler, the Deutscher-Symphonie plays it with the passion of the Vienna Philharmonic, and Oeser does what can be done for it or any other work: he transcribes it with competence and conviction. Ondine's sound is massive and monumental, but not detailed enough. Despite the dreaded "double zero," this is a great Bruckner recording.

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