Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gerd Schaller's Bruckner 6 - the end of the cycle

 Image result for schaller bruckner 6

Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 6

Philharmonie Festiva
Conducted by Gerd Schaller

Profil Hänssler CD PH14021

This is the final recording in Schaller’s complete cycle of Bruckner’s major symphonies. All have been recorded at the Ebrach Abbey with the Philharmonie Festiva, a festival orchestra drawn from the Munich Bach soloists and the major Munich orchestras.  I reviewed the Fourth here and the Fifth here.

Schaller’s performance can seem a little understated, particularly at the first hearing of the opening movement. The program notes provide a clue, describing the Sixth as lighter than the other symphonies – in fact, as Bruckner’s equivalent to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Many enthusiasts of the Sixth (me amongst them) will find this baffling. Bruckner, after all, termed this his “boldest” symphony. Think of the modal changes in the first movement; the rhythmic complexity; and the abrupt changes of mood and musical direction. These aspects are somewhat below the surface in Schaller’s recording of the opening movement– although they do come out on a second hearing.

The Adagio is more engaged but still not fully plumbing the depths of the movement. The Scherzo is dynamic and the contrast with the Trio well done. The intensity quotient picks up in the Finale, but Schaller works hard to highlight the complexity of the orchestration and so there is some trade-off. The closing peroration is not as magnificent as in some recordings, but the plus side is Schaller’s characteristic technical proficiency and command of the overall structure. 

The live sound is good quality and the recording suffers less from the acoustics of Erbrach Abbey than, say, the Fifth. This disc is recommended