London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded live at Royal Festival Hall on March 14, 2014
LPO 084 (CD)
It is hard to believe that Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was 91 years old at the time this performance was recorded in the Festival Hall in March, 2014. But it is not hard to believe that the concert represents a lifetime’s experience with Bruckner’s music. Not for him the recent fashion for performing Bruckner’s original 1873 version. Skrowaczewski gives a very assured performance of Bruckner’s 1889 revision of the score, as edited by Nowak in 1959 (since the liner notes describe the edition as Skrowaczewski’s own, I imagine that there are some divergences from Nowak, but these must be rather subtle).
The exposition in the opening movement is slow and measured. Skrowaczewski resists the temptation to rush into the tutti passages, which makes the climaxes more telling. The movement has more than its fair share of Bruckner’s characteristic “stop and start” moments, but Skrowaczewski and the LPO do a fine job of maintaining momentum and preserving the overall musical line.
The Adagio is powerful. The steady tempi and careful progressions pay dividends here. The Scherzo feels fast, contrasting strongly (and effectively) with a very danceable Trio. The brisk tempi are carried over into the Finale, built around the juxtaposition of a polka and a chorale. There is a pronounced lilt in the polka, which works well to bring out the contrast with the chorale. The ending is absolutely tremendous and it is easy to see why so many conductors have been attracted to the Third.
This recording from Skrowaczewski and the LPO is highly recommended. They make a powerful case for the 1889 version, which can sound terrific in the hands of a master.