Day 76: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major (Rogner)

brucknermorningdecMy “office” this morning is home with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1, Episode 1 (“Encounter to Farpoint“) on in the background.

For the record, I think Next Gen is one of the most heavy-handed, over-acted of the Star Trek franchises. It’s enjoyable viewing, at times. But it’s cringe-worthy, too.

Commander Riker is a lech. Lt. Yar is a hot head. Wesley is a goof-up.

I could go on. But why bother?

What I’ve never been able to understand is that in this world – the Star Trek of the future – things like aggression and war among humans has supposedly been replaced by peace and compassion and altruism. Yet, these characters are among the most quick-to-anger I’ve ever seen for such a race of beings. If they can’t speak to any alien being (Q, for example) without shouting, and if Captain Picard is always telling one of his people (usually Worf or Yar) to stand down, how did this race ever get to be so peaceful? These folks seem quite aggressive to me.

Yet, Next Gen is the perfect background. I don’t have to hear it. And I only occasionally see it. It’s a familiarity to me. Like a puppy. Or my cat, Larry.

brucknerrognercd5frontThis morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major (WAB 105) – nicknamed “Tragic,” “Church of Faith,” or “Pizzicato” symphony (for reasons I’m still discovering) – is Heinz Rogner (1929-2001), who was born in Leipzig, Germany.

Prior to Day 60, I had never heard a performance conducted by Heinz Rogner.

This is only my second.

As a reminder, this is from Rogner’s bio on Wikipedia:

From 1958 to 1962, Rögner was chief conductor of the Leipzig Radio Orchestra. From 1973 to 1993, he was chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 1984, he became chief conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, and in 1990 took the title of permanent guest conductor.

Maestro Rogner is part of a box set called Bruckner: Complete Symphonies, which you can buy from Amazon here. I’ve heard other conductors from that set in my 144-day journey.

The great thing about this set is it’s from Brilliant Classics, one of the most affordable, yet high-quality record labels I’ve ever encountered. I have many box sets from Brilliant Classics, mostly because they release complete recordings – as in Complete Bach, Complete Mozart, Complete Beethoven, etc. Their prices are incredibly low compared to what you get in return.

(And I swear Brilliant Classics didn’t pay me to type those words. I’m just passionate about their label.)

On to the facts of today’s recording…

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major (WAB 105) composed in 1875-1876
Rogner used the “Nowak Version,” according to the CD sleeve. (But the Nowak verion of what? The 1878 version?)
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin plays
The symphony clocks in at 68:26 (a full 10 minutes leaner than what I heard yesterday – Day 75 – from Paternostro)
This was recorded in September, 1983, and in January, 1984 – location unknown (but probably Germany)
Rogner was 55 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 51 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Brilliant Classics label

According to its entry on Wikipedia,

1878 version
This is the version normally performed. It exists in editions by Robert Haas (published 1935) and Leopold Nowak (published 1951) which are almost identical.

That must be the version Rogner choose – the 1878, edited by Nowak and published in 1951. But it’s just my guess.

Now is a good time to spring a paragraph from the excellent CD booklet/liner notes on you. This particular essay on Symphony No. 5 was written by Maria Kardos-Morin, and it’s one of the best descriptions of Bruckner and his Fifth I’ve ever read. Dig:

More than with anyone else, people have to consider the man, Anton Bruckner, in order to understand his music. Bruckner comes from the farmland atmosphere of southern Austria, has little schooling, and a pure and naive mind. At thirteen, after the death of his father, he joined the male choir at the Se Florian Monastery and there received spiritual instruction which made him into a ‘outsider’ whose life and development were marked by social and emotional loneliness.

Misjudged and misunderstood, Bruckner composed the Fifth Symphony in one of the most depressing moments of his life.

More about that in a moment.

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, “ed. Nowak), from this particular conductor (Rogner) and this particular orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester) is as follows:

I. Introduction (Adagio) — Allegro. B-flat major……………………………19:40
II. Adagio. Sehr langsam. (Very slowly) D minor……………………………14:41
III. Scherzo. Molto vivace D minor…………………………………………………13:48
IV. Finale (Adagio) — Allegro moderato. B-flat major…………………..20:02

Total running time: 68:26

And now for my subjective assessment:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (typical Brilliant Classics fare – crisp, clean, and exciting)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 4 (decent essays on each Bruckner symphony, but little information about the conductors)
How does this make me feel: 4

The first thing I need to mention is that even though the 16-page booklet contains some of the best essays on Bruckner’s symphonies I’ve yet read, it contains virtually no information about the orchestra or the conductors. For Bruckner nerds such as myself that seems like a colossal oversight on Brilliant’s part. Would it have killed them to include another spread in the CD booklet that contained a paragraph or two about each conductor? Or even where (city and or state/country) each symphony was recorded?

Regarding the quote from the liner notes, this is what amazes me most about Bruckner: He was a back woods simpleton who was, nevertheless, able to compose nine exquisite symphonies. How? I’m at a loss.

When I listened to all of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Chopin, etc., I could very well believe these people composed that music. But Bruckner?

Knowing about Bruckner’s character and/or personality makes his music even more extraordinary. It’s like it sprang out of nowhere.

Speaking of music, I liked every Movement equally. They were recorded well, performed with enthusiasm, and conducted with a deft hand.

I would recommend this interpretation of Bruckner’s Fifth.

Dare I type these words…


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