Day 9: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Maazel)

brucknermaazelcd1This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (WAB 101) is American Lorin Maazel (1930-2014), a person about whom I knew nothing and, in fact, of whom I had never heard until I started this project.

According to his entry on Wikipedia, Maazel,

was an American conductor, violinist and composer. Making his debut at the conducting podium at the age of eight, he embarked on his career in earnest in 1953, establishing a reputation in European concert halls by 1960 but, by comparison, his career in the U.S. progressed far more slowly. However, he would later be appointed music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic (NYP), among other posts. Maazel was well-regarded in baton technique and possessed a photographic memory for scores. Described as mercurial and forbidding in rehearsal, he mellowed in old age

brucknermaazelboxSo far, having listened to Maazel’s interpretation of Symphony No. 1 in C Minor three times through, I can say – without hesitation – that this is my least favorite so far.

This entire bloated performance leaves me colder than the top of Mt. Everest.

Here are the objective stats:

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The breakdown of this one (using the Linz version), from this particular conductor (Maazel) and this particular orchestra (Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks – the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra), is as follows:

Allegro…………..15:19
Adagio……………12:43
Scherzo……………8:11
Finale……………..18:02

By way of contrast, the breakdown from the Karajan interpretation yesterday (same version – Linz), performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker, was as follows:

Allegro…………..12:53
Adagio……………14:17
Scherzo……………8:54
Finale……………..14:27

The breakdown from the Jochum interpretation (also using the Linz version) I listened to two days ago – performed by Staatskapelle Dresden – was:

Allegro…………..12:29
Adagio……………12:38
Scherzo……………9:02
Finale……………..12:57

Notice that the Maazel performance is longer than Karajan’s by over five minutes.

It is longer than the Jochum’s performance by over six minutes.

The big difference is in the Finale. The Maazel version is a whopping 18:02, the last few seconds of which is applause, which I haven’t heard yet in any of these recordings. Maaze’s Allegro (Movement I) is also long, by nearly three minutes. But it’s that Finale that, I think, weighs down this entire performance.

Other objective stats: This was recorded in 1999. It was released on the BR Klassic Record Label. Maazel was 69 when he conducted this piece of music. Bruckner was 41 when he wrote it.

Here are the subjective aspects to my listening this morning:

The liner notes in the booklet offer text in German and English. The essay is titled, “Anton Bruckner: Ten Symphonies,” written by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, part of which read:

Lorin Maazel adheres to the old Bruckner tradition with broad tempi and lush sound, combined however with a keen eye for inner structure and details. This is why his Bruckner sounds monumental, yet concurrently well thought out.

I beg to differ. It doesn’t sound monumental to me. Karajan sounds monumental. Haitink sounds monumental. Schaller sounds monumental. This just sounds bloated. And since when was the “old Bruckner tradition” one of “broad tempi”? Jochum had something to say about the tempi of Bruckner’s symphonies in this post.

My Rating:
Recording quality: 3 (it’s not bad, it’s not good; it’s “meh”)
Overall musicianship: 3 (the orchestra sounds lethargic)
CD liner notes: 3 (adequate essays, in both English and German)
How does this make me feel: 2

Maazel’s Allego is sluggish and tired. His Finale is bloated and the applause at the end is self serving.

In fact, if I had two pick one word that covers this performance it would be sluggish.

Not even the final :60 of Adagio, the one minute where Bruckner’s First Symphony sounds the most magical to my ears, just lies there under the direction of Maazel.

I could not recommend this performance to a Bruckner newbie.

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