Day 55: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (Jochum)

jochum42cdThis morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), titled “Romantic” by Bruckner himself, is German-born Eugen Jochum (1902-1987), unarguably one of the most highly respected interpreters of Anton Bruckner’s music who ever lived.

It was Maestro Jochum yesterday, too. But with a different orchestra.

You see, I have two CD box sets featuring Mr. Jochum in the role of conductor – this one, on the Warner Classics label, and the performance I heard yesterday on the DG label. I chose to listen to the symphony from the DG set before the one from the Warner Classics label because the DG-label recording is older. (I figured chronological order was a fair enough delineator.)

bruckner-jochum-2boxI had the pleasure of hearing Eugen Jochum conduct the Staatskapelle Dresden three other times so far on my 144-day journey: Day 39, Day 23, and Day 7.

Before I get too subjective about this morning’s recording, here are the nuts and bolts:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major composed in 1874
Eugen Jochum conducts
Jochum used the 1886 version, edited by Leopold Nowak
Staatskapelle Dresden plays
The symphony clocks in 65:05
This was recorded in Dresden, Germany, in 1975
Jochum was 73 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 50 when he composed it
This recording was released on the Warner Classics Label

Of the 1886 version, its entry on Wikipedia tells us this:

1886 revision
The 1886 version is the same as the 1881 version but includes a number of changes made by Bruckner while preparing a score of the symphony for Anton Seidl, who took it with him to New York City. This version was published in an edition by Nowak in 1953, based on the original copyist’s score, which was rediscovered in 1952 and is now in the collection of Columbia University. In the title of Nowak’s publication, it was confusingly described as the “1878-1880 version”. It was performed in New York by Seidl on 4 April 1888.

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major, 1886 version), from this particular conductor (Jochum) and this particular orchestra (Staatskapelle Dresden) is as follows:

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (With motion, not too fast) (E-flat major)…………..17:53
II. Andante, quasi allegretto (C minor)…………………………………………………………..16:44
III. Scherzo. Bewegt (With motion) – Trio: Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast) (B-flat major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..10:01
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast) (E-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………20.20

Total running time: 65:05

Okay. Now for the subjective stuff…

In the three previous times I heard Jochum conduct Staatskapelle Dresden, these were my assessments:

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Day 7)

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 3 (minimal information, one essay)
How does this make me feel: 5

___

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Day 23)

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (slight tape hiss, some ambient movements)
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (very short overview essay in English, German, Italian, French)
How does this make me feel: 3

___

Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (Day 39)

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (seems a little flat)
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (two short essays translated into English, German, and French, scant little else)
How does this make me feel: 3

___

Here’s my assessment today:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (slight tape hiss, a bit tinny in the horn parts, cavernous in other parts)
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (minimal information, one essay)
How does this make me feel: 4

I honestly don’t know what to think of this recording.

Well, I mean I rated it already. Those are my numbers above. But I don’t really know what I think of it. I listened to it two times through. At no time did I utter “Huzzah!” because I was blown away.

I barely uttered a “meh” this time around.

I just wasn’t feeling it.

Maybe that’s what I’m waiting for – the feels.

This recording makes me feel like I’m on the outside looking for a way in. I never really feel involved with this one. Not drawn in.

Not even the Scherzo (Movement III) rouses me. And I didn’t feel the excitement of the Finale (Movement IV) this time around.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad recording. It’s masterful, in fact. But I’m not feeling it.

You know what it’s like when a friend recommends a movie, praises the movie up and down, tells you it’s the greatest movie ever filmed, and then when you see it you’re not feeling it? You’re almost willing yourself to like it. You’re telling yourself, “This is supposed to be the greatest movie of all time. Am I missing something? I’m don’t get it.”

That’s what I think about this recording. It’s a world-class conductor, a world-class orchestra, a label known for releasing fine recordings, and a symphony I’ve grown to love and look forward to hearing every morning, written by a composer with talent that seems otherworldly, magical.

But I’m not feeling it this time.

Even though I’ve been willing myself to do so.

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