Day 61: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (Skrowaczewski)

skrowaczewskicd4This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), titled “Romantic” by Bruckner himself, is Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1923-), the famed Polish-born artist who even has a web site with a cool name: Seeking The Infinite, which is also the title of a biography about him. You can find it here.

I encountered Mr. Skrowaczewski three times before today, the first time being Day 13.

After that, it was Day 29 and Day 45.

My listening experience on all three days was consistent. I like Skrowaczewski.

However, 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
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts
Skrowaczewski used the ???? version
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken plays
The symphony clocks in at 70:32 (Yikes!)
This was recorded October 25-28, 1998, in Saarbrucken, Germany
Skrowaczewski was 75 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 50 when he composed it
This recording was released on the OEHMS Classics Record Label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major, version unknown), from this particular conductor (Skrowaczewski) and this particular orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken) is as follows:

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (With motion, not too fast) (E-flat major)…………..21:00
II. Andante, quasi allegretto (C minor)…………………………………………………………16:28
III. Scherzo. Bewegt (With motion) – Trio: Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast) (B-flat major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..10:47
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast) (E-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………22:03

Total running time: 70:32

Okay. Now for the subjective stuff…

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (sketchy, no information about versions used, booklet not laid out well)
How does this make me feel: 3

Maestro Skrowaczewski is a fine conductor. These are excellent recordings.

However, the tempo for Movement I (Bewegt, nicht zu schnell) seems slow. The opening horns seem tentative, not mystical. The pace, overall, sounds sluggish. It may be that the tempo for this performance actually is slower, which would account for the total time of over 70 minutes (Yikes!), which – to me – seems too long.

Yesterday (Day 60), I heard a performance by Rogner that took just 58:17 to complete. And it felt great. The perfect amount of time to spend listening to a symphony.

Skrowaczewski, however, adds nearly 11 minutes. Why?

My beef with this box set is the lack of information regarding the versions used. It’s simply not there. Or, information about the versions is there somewhere – but not in any place where I could find it quickly and easily. Version information is essential.

Plus, important information is scattered throughout. Like, the back of the CD sleeve offers a piece of it. Inside the booklet (liner notes) offers another piece of it. But the info on the back of the CD sleeve is minimal. No times listed for each track, for example. No version. No editor named.

Skrowaczewski’s Movement II (Andante) doesn’t move me the way Rogner’s did. Not even the pizzicato of Movement II puts a smile on my face. It just feels slow to me. Or, at least, it’s not lively.

Movement III (Scherzo), the “Hunt” theme, recovers some of the energy I’ve heard in other recordings. The tempo seems about right for this one. The roller coaster that is the Third Movement stirred me.

Movement IV should have elicited a hearty “Huzzah!” from me. But it didn’t.

On the bright side, this is a grand, sweeping, majestic recording. The orchestra sounds rich and full.

But something doesn’t grab me about this recording. It’s hard for me to overcome the 70+ minutes, and the lack of important, even essential, information in the liner notes. It just doesn’t seem like the OEHMS Classics label didn’t give this box set the due Skrowaczewski deserves.

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