4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Is there anybody else out there ...,
This review is from: Symphony 7 (Audio CD)
... who appreciates this performance as highly as I do? Well, when considering such wonderful performers/artists, in the end, it all comes down to taste, but I really love this performance. (Does that tell anything about how good or bad my tastes are? ;-)
Anyhow, this recording has had its fair share of bad reviews in press, being called 'tedious' and 'lacking in human dimension' because of being too much reduced to 'architectural denominators', or imbibed with too much 'Shatneresque(?) huffing and puffing'.
Be those observations as they may, I would like to say what I like about this performance. Generally, I am not a great fan of Sir Simon Rattle, but there are a few, IMHO, wonderful exceptions. But with these exceptions, there is a lot of devided opinion as well, as expected with this conductor, who never seems to fails to 'devide the field', as it were. I do for example love Sir Simon Rattle's recording of Mahler 10 with the Berliner Philharmoniker (EMI). (Although that one is generally accepted as 'classic', I would think.) I also like his recording (more of a risk, saying this), with the same orchestra, of Mahler's 9th - even if this performance, generally not well received by press and public alike, is characterized by a lot of idiosynchrasies (While being maybe a stand-alone in the field, it does have a uniquely convincing power of its own, I believe).
The orchestral playing to my taste (and here I think anyone could agree) is mellifluous and glowingly rich in sound, from the softest pianissimos to the greatest fortissimos (probably much helped by the accoustics of the venue, the fabled Symphony Hall Birmingham). Indeed, as another (professional) reviewer has mentioned, there is a wonderful sense of architecture here, with flowing transitions between tempos. But at the same time many reviewers seem to miss a 'human side' with this performance. But I think that, generally, Anton Bruckner's music wouldn't suffer from a more 'dry-eyed' view - as opposed to Mahler's music, which could, I think, benefit from a more overtly emotional stance (but not necessarily) - and I certainly do not sense a 'lack' of anything in any department of the music making. But I do know what people mean when they say this. I do have that sensation of this 'lack of a deeper, warmer human core' with, for example, Sir Simon Rattle's Mahler 8, which indeed I don't like. (Characterized as it is by lightness of touch and emphasis on flow and trying to stress symphonic tautness, missing out a bit on the drama and the deep love sentiments that are certainly there, I believe.)
I think that any 'lack' of a 'human side' in this Bruckner 7 is compensated by glorious sound and nobility of playing. The music is taken at face value by the conductor, without any sentimentality - it sort of goes beyond the human scale: this recording is awe-inspiring as 'musical phenomenon', helped by a marvelous 'architecture in sound'. There is - to my ears - plenty of awe, mystery and love for the music being displayed here. To top it off, the well-balanced strings (high and low), brass and woodwind make for a wonderful, richly blended sonorous sound: nowhere is the sound 'top heavy' in one department or another. But at the same time Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra find a lighter, lyrical touch that is to me very endearing, very fresh and clean.
In one sentence, there is rich sonority combined with lyrical touch and fine orchestral balance, nicely recorded. I, for one, love it. That, of course, tells everything about my own tastes (which DO allow for DIFFERENT interpretations of the same work, according to different moods and times), and nothing about what other people should think about this recording at a certain time. But please try and give it a taste, maybe you would like it as well. It is one of my personal favorite recordings (of any piece of music) and I could only in good conscience recommend it wholeheartedly.