Day 50: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (Chailly)

chaillycd5This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), titled “Romantic” by Bruckner himself, is Italian Riccardo Chailly (1953-). The orchestra is Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

I had never heard of Chailly before I started this 144-day project. But that says more about me than it does about Chailly. I don’t get out much.

chaillycdboxI first encountered Riccardo Chailly on Day 2, Day 18, and Day 34. If you want to know what my reviews were for those interpretations of Bruckner’s first three symphonies, let your mouse do the walking over to them.

I’ll save the subjective comments for the end. First, the nuts and bolts:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major composed in 1874
Riccardo Chailly conducts
Chailly used the Nowak edition, but from which year? Wikipedia lists three possible choices:

Nowak edition of 1953, based on the 1886 copy
Nowak edition of 1974, based on the 1874 manuscript
Nowak edition of the 1878 “Volksfest” finale, published 1981

If Wiki is correct, Chailly used the 1953 edition, based on the 1886 copy.

But should I have to use Google and spend time to find out what this box set should have told me instantly? (The answer is No. That information should have been provided.)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra plays
The symphony clocks in at 66:14
This was recorded at Grootezaal, Concertgebuow, Amsterdam, in December of 1988
Chailly was 35 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 50 when he composed it
This recording was released on the Decca record label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major, Nowak edition), from this particular conductor (Chailly) and this particular orchestra (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) is as follows:

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (With motion, not too fast) (E-flat major)…………..18:47
II. Andante, quasi allegretto (C minor)…………………………………………………………..15:09
III. Scherzo. Bewegt (With motion) – Trio: Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast) (B-flat major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….10:23
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast) (E-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………21:56

Total running time: 66:14

Okay. Now for the subjective stuff…

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (very short essay titled “The Symphonies of Anton Bruckner” written by Andrew Huth translated into English, German, French – but no information on versions used)
How does this make me feel: 3

I still contend that a DDD (all digital) recording as this is sounds harsher than an analogue one. It may just be my ears (as opposed to what – my feet?) hearing a difference. But, as I noted in previous reviews of Chailly’s interpretations, the sound seems brittle, cold. The “Hunt” trumpets, for example, in the incredible Scherzo (Movement III). They really blat out. Or the horns around the 10:00 mark in Movement I. They don’t have a warm, smooth tone.

This performance is uniformly good from Movement I through Movement IV. But at no time did I feel like jumping out of my chair to shout “Huzzah!”

This isn’t necessarily a “Meh” recording. But it lacks the magic I heard in yesterday’s recording (Day 49, Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). It has its moments, to be sure. The aforementioned Third Movement, for example, and parts of the Finale (especially the dramatic build up at the end). And who can resist the quiet string-and-horn opening of the First Movement? Not me. I’m not made of stone. It portends something special is going to happen. And, for the most part, it does.

Of this interpretation of Bruckner’s Fourth, I’d say it’s worth listening to.

But if that’s the best I can say about it, do you really want to spend an hour of your life heeding my advice?

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