Day 24: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Karajan)

brucknerkarajancd4This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (WAB 102) is Austrian Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989), one of the most highly respected conductors – and interpreters of Anton Bruckner’s music – who ever lived.

Incidentally, the image to the left is the number of the CD sleeve. Bruckner’s Second Symphony is the 4th CD in the von Karajan set.

I first encountered Mr. Karajan (or is that Mr. von Karajan?) on Day 8 of my 144-day journey.

For Bruckner’s First Symphony, I wasn’t enamored with von Karajan’s interpretation and/or the recording. It sounded so bombastic to my ears. And I was a bit put off by what appeared to be Karajan worship in the liner notes. Here’s what I wrote on that day:

However, despite the bombast of, say, Allegro and Finale, I wasn’t feeling the Karajan magic – especially on the one piece of music by which I gauge the “Wow Factor”: The last :60 of Adagio (Movement II). The Karajan version leaves me colder than a mountaintop in Alaska. No awe. No sense of wonder. No me hanging on every note to the last, quiet one.

brucknerkarajanboxThis morning, however, is another story.

But, first, let’s dispatch with the objective aspects of this morning’s listening.

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, composed in 1872
Herbert von Karajan conducts
Berliner Philharmoniker plays
The version used is the 1876 version, edited by Leopold Nowak
The symphony clocks in at 60:08 – about eight minutes longer than Jochum yesterday
This was recorded in December, 1980, and January, 1981, in Berlin in Germany
von Karajan was 72 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 48 when he composed it
This recording was released on the Deutsche Grammophon Record Label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, 1876 Nowak Edition, “with passages restored from the 1872 version,” according to the back of the CD sleeve), from this particular conductor (von Karanan) and this particular orchestra (Berliner Philharmoniker) is as follows:

Moderato………….18:16
Andante…………….17:34
Scherzo……………….6:12
Finale…………………18:06

Total: 60:08

Okay. Now for the subjective aspects to this morning’s listening:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 4 (24-page booklet, mostly about von Karajan, translated into English, French, and German)
How does this make me feel: 5

This is a masterful performance, perfectly recorded. I was incredibly stirred by the Moderato (Movement I), drawn in by the haunting melodies of the Andante (Movement II) – especially the pizzicato and French horn passages, which on this recording, didn’t seem to be paced like a dirge – propelled forward by the rousing Scherzo (Movement III), and captivated by the expansive, dramatic Finale (Movement IV).

All of the instruments are given their due, with the brass taking lead in much of this recording – but not brass as in brassy or harsh. The tone of the French horn is smooth.

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor is a delightful and endearing composition.

By the way, I wasn’t familiar with the precise definition of the word “Moderato” (Movement I). So I checked its entry on Wikipedia: “Moderato – moderately – At a moderate speed.”

Well, duh.

According to the Wiki entry for tempo, Moderato is “moderately (108–120 bpm).”

While I was at it, I looked up Andante (Movement II) on Wikipedia: “Andante – at a walking pace – Moderately slow, flowing along.”

Interesting.

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