Review of Ben's Bruckner 5 CD
Posted: 2012-07-24 14:10:00
Bruckner: Symphony No. 5 (Audio CD)
First, I must apologize if I gush, but this is one of the few occasions where I feel _compelled_ to do so!
I will quickly summarize the performance of this symphony as "excellent": the playing is a hair below being top-notch, due to a few obvious but forgivable minor flubs (in this symphony, mistakes are easy, just as a matter of endurance), but the tempi (throughout!) are absolutely ideal, and the balances between parts are amazingly-clear. From stem to stern, this recording has no weak link.
(I have 81 distinct recordings of this piece, _not_ including multiple transfers of the same historical performances; thus, I practically have the piece memorized from exposure to many different interpretations. Amongst all of those, I would _gladly_ choose this particular recording -- along with 9 or 10 others -- for both my own pleasure and as a demonstration of the piece to others. Here, of course, is where the discussion pushes this head-and-shoulders above those other performances...)
And this recording has no weak link _specifically_ because of the conductor, Benjamin Zander. I have enjoyed his discussions of Mahler's symphonies very much (my personal favourite being the 4th). His discussion of the Bruckner 5th, however, is of a wholly-grander order, to the point where it honestly rises in importance from a cogent intellectual dissection to a heart-stirring story about the power of music (and art in general). One could not _write_ a better tale than that of Zander's father (a German soldier in WWI) experiencing this music through only the score while fighting at the Russian front. What Zander reveals about his father's experiences at that time is just as compelling as Bruckner's own story. Yet, Zander sacrifices _nothing_ from his explanation of the music itself to present all _three_ elements -- his father, Bruckner, & the music -- in the course of the discussion. In fact, I can confidently say that Zander's grip on this music is complete and confident; his judgment, taste, humility, and feeling falter at not a single point. He may have needed time to arrive, but he _now_ knows his Bruckner almost as well as the man himself. Simply _outstanding_!!!
(Finally, as someone who truly knows & loves the music of Bruckner -- through both good and bad performances -- I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Mr. Zander in this public forum for what he has accomplished with this release. This piece has always needed such champions as you and your father.)