Day 77: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major (Skrowaczewski)

bruckner5skrowaczewskifrontThis 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 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 the bio here.

I first experienced Maestro Skrowaczewski on Day 13 of my 144-day project.

Then again on Day 29.

Then again on Day 45.

brucknerskrowaczeskiboxThen, most recently, on Day 61.

On to the facts of today’s recording…

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major (WAB 105) composed in 1875-1876
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts
Skrowaczewski used the ??? version, edited by ???
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken plays
The symphony clocks in at 73:23
This was recorded in October of 1996 at Kongresshalle Saarbrucken, Germany
Skrowaczewski was 73 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 51 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the OEHMS 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’s my best guess as to the version Skrowaczewski chose – the 1878. However, neither the liner notes nor the CD sleeve provide any information about the version or the editor – Nowak? or Haas?

From the liner notes essay titled “Anton Bruckner The Symphonies,” written by Barbara Dobretsberger:

The Fifth Symphony is B Major is balder, more monumental and nearer to Bruckner’s sacred works; it is sometimes also called the “Faith Symphony.”

The fact that Bruckner put the Fifth aside means that, unusually, we are spared the discussion of versions and revisions as their is only one autograph copy.

That’s all well and good. But it doesn’t tell me what Skrowaczewski used, and who edited it.

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, version and edition unknown), from this particular conductor (Skrowaczewski) and this particular orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken) is as follows:

I. Introduction (Adagio) — Allegro. B-flat major……………………………19:45
II. Adagio. Sehr langsam. (Very slowly) D minor……………………………16:19
III. Scherzo. Molto vivace D minor…………………………………………………13:10
IV. Finale (Adagio) — Allegro moderato. B-flat major…………………..24:01

Total running time: 73:23

And now for my subjective assessment:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (a few ambient noises, even what sounds like a musician sniffing at 16:28 of Movement I)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 3 (lengthy essays, but incomplete recording/version information)
How does this make me feel: 4 (it’s more than 4, but not quite 5)

The horns in this recording are warm and not brassy.

This entire recording is crisp, clean, and complex – and, by complex, I mean like a single-malt Scotch…full bodied, rich, and textured.

Equally as important as the quality of the sound, I am impressed by the way this feels, especially in Movement IV (Finale). Love the power of the timpani in the last few seconds of the Finale. The entire Finale is especially captivating – right to the end…at which I felt like jumping up and shouting…


Maestro Skrowaczewski created something both magical and engaging.


  1. Steve Wright

    Enjoying the reviews (Skrowaczewski’s is the Bruckner cycle I would like to acquire next – I have Karajan, Chailly and Jochum/Dresden, plus a pile of single symphonies).
    So how’s #5 faring now in your Bruckner symphonies pecking order, Bill?

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for stopping by again.

      I have only warmed to B5 because of the performances of a handful of orchestras/conductors. The symphony itself? I’m still not enamored with it, although Barenboim, Haitink, Jochum (“white” box, DG label), Karajan and Tintner inspire me to keep trying.

      So far, B5 is still at the bottom of my list of Bruckner symphonies, which is not really a slam. A Bruckner symphony is still many notches above one from a few other composers. Therefore, to tell you it’s at “the bottom of my list of Bruckner symphonies” still rates it very high above what other composers have given us over the centuries.

      I may have discovered why when I read Georg Tintner’s description of it in the liner notes from Day 79. Tintner wrote, “The Fifth Symphony [is] the most intellectual of all Bruckner’s works….”

      When I think of “intellectual” music, I think of Dream Theater (the prog-metal band) or King Crimson. Music that’s as technically complex as it gets, but often emotionally sterile.

      That’s about how B5 struck me – extremely well made. But emotionally bereft.

      But that’s just my opinion. Take that for what it’s worth.

      Hope you continue to hang with me here and post comments.

      – Bill

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