Day 58: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (Masur)

panoviewnov29-2016 My “office” this morning. Back at the grocery store cafeteria.

My view features a group of older guys – a couple of whom were using an iPad and detachable keyboard set-up – kvetching about the world.

masurcd4This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), titled “Romantic” by Bruckner himself, is Kurt Masur (1927-2015), another person about whom I knew nothing and of whom I had never heard until I started this project.

He was born in Germany and died just last year (2016) at the age of 88, in Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.

I first encountered Mr. Masur on Day 10 of my 144-day journey. After that, I heard him on Day 26, and most recently on Day 42. So this is the fourth time for me hearing Maestro Masur at work on the podium.

brucknermasurboxBut 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
Kurt Masur conducts
Maazel used the 1878/1880 version, edited by Nowak
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig plays
The symphony clocks in 64:15
This was recorded in Dresden, Germany, in June and July of 1975
Masur was 48 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 50 when he composed it
This recording was released on the Red Seal label

Of the 1874 Original Version, its entry on Wikipedia tells us this:

1874 version
Bruckner’s original version, published in an edition by Leopold Nowak in 1975, was composed between 2 January and 22 November 1874. This version was never performed or published during the composer’s lifetime, though the Scherzo was played in Linz on 12 December 1909. The first complete performance was given in Linz more than a century after its composition on 20 September 1975 by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Wöss. The first commercial recording of the 1874 version was made in September 1982 by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eliahu Inbal (CD 2564 61371-2).

No mention of the name Nowak on the CD sleeve from Masur’s box set. There’s no booklet, no liner notes, in this set at all. I hate that.

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major, “1874 Original Version”), from this particular conductor (Masur) and this particular orchestra (Gewandhausorchester Leipzig) is as follows:

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (With motion, not too fast) (E-flat major)…………..18:27
II. Andante, quasi allegretto (C minor)…………………………………………………………14:03
III. Scherzo. Bewegt (With motion) – Trio: Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast) (B-flat major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..10:45
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast) (E-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………21:00

Total running time: 64:15

Okay. Now for the subjective stuff…

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (slight tape hiss at the start of the first movemnet; otherwise, slight ambient sounds)
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 0 (there are none! boo! hiss!)
How does this make me feel: 4

This is actually a fine recording. I was stirred a few times, most notably in the opening minute or so of the first movement. I love the way the horns sound with the violins sawing away setting the mood.

Movement III (Scherzo) also sounds quite good, very Hunt-like. I got the Robin Hood feeling again.

But what I really like about Bruckner’s Fourth – and Masur’s interpretation of it – is in the last few minutes of the Finale (Movement IV). From about the 18:45 mark onward, and especially starting at 19:42, I am enthralled. It sounds mysterious, even ominous, but definitely pregnant with some importance. Something either is about to happen, or has happened. It’s a stunning piece of music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.