Sunday, March 2, 2014

Barenboim's 2010 Bruckner 6

Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 6 (original version)

Staatskapelle, conducted by Daniel Barenboim
Accentus 202176 (DVD – also available as Blu-Ray)

Daniel Barenboim has been the music director of the Berlin Staaskapelle since 1992. In the 2010 season he conducted the orchestra in a mini Bruckner cycle comprising the six mature symphonies beginning with the 4th. All six symphonies were recorded live in a single week and are slowly being released on DVD and Blu-Ray. The current disc is the fourth to come out. Only the 8th and 9th are still to be released.

This performance, recorded in a single take in the Berlin Philharmonie on June 22, 2010, is the quickest of Barenboim’s three recordings of the 6th symphony – 52’50”, as opposed to 58’08” with the Chicago Symphony in 1977 and 54’46” with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1994.

At times in the first movement the structure gets a little muddied by the pace, but Barenboim keeps the train on the tracks and brings the movement to a rousing close, followed by a particularly fine rendition of the wonderful coda. The Adagio is well-shaped and manages to sound expansive, despite the pace. Barenboim does more than justice to one of Bruckner’s most ravishing slow movements. The Scherzo is very dramatic, as might be expected. Even by Bruckner’s standards the Finale of the 6th is somewhat disjointed, with a large number of different motifs and frequent changes of tempi. But Barenboim succeeds in molding it together and bringing out the inner logic of the movement.

This is a very good performance, although not quite a great one. The filming adds to, rather than detracts from, the music and it is interesting to watch Barenboim understated movements and conducting style. Accentus have released a 5 minute sampler video on YouTube. It can be found here.