Day 93: Symphony No. 6 in A Major (Skrowaczewski)

bakerbooksjan3-2016My “office” this morning.

I’m back to Baker Book House.

Because of the time (a little after 7am) I’m the only one here, the first customer of the day.

I love that.

Just me, my Brown Sugar Pecan scone, my laptop and books, my Hawaii Kona coffee, and an empty room.

bruckner6skrowaczewskifrontThis morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A Major (WAB 106) 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 very fine biography about him.

You can find the bio here.

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

That’s when I listened to Skrowaczewski conduct Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1.

Then again on Day 29, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 45, Symphony No. 3.

Then, most recently, on Day 61, Symphony No. 4.

brucknerskrowaczeskiboxAnd, most recently, Day 77, Symphony No. 5.

On to the facts of today’s recording…

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A Major (WAB 106) composed between 1879 and 1881
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts
Skrowaczewski used the ??? version, edited by ???
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken plays
The symphony clocks in at 56:53
This was recorded March 3 & 4 of 1997 at Kongresshalle Saarbrucken, Germany
Skrowaczewski was 77 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 57 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the OEHMS Classics label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 6 in A Major [WAB 106]), from this particular conductor (Skrowaczewski) and this particular orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken) is as follows:

I: Majestoso…………………………………………………………………………………………………….15:39
II: Adagio. Sehr feierlich (Very solemnly)……………………………………………………….18:36
III: Scherzo. Nicht schnell (Not fast) — Trio. Langsam (Slowly)………………………8:43
IV: Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast)……13:53

Total running time: 56:53

From the liner notes by Barbara Dobretsberger:

The unusual form of the last movement…most breaks out of the standard symphonic bounds, but on the other hand of course the movement which most astounds through true lightning bolts of genius.

In the Scherzo, dance characteristics mutate into a demonic moods; the individual theme complexes alternate in the Finale with their contrasting harmonies, melodies and rhythms. The despondent minor mood in which the Finale begins is dispelled by a “per aspera ad astra” in A major.

And now for my subjective assessment:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (a few ambient sounds but nothing overly distracting)
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 3 (lengthy essays, but incomplete recording/version information)
How does this make me feel: 4

As usual, Maestro Skrowaczewski makes it sound effortless.

Even the Adagio is sublime in the hands of Skrowaczewski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken.

Because it was Skrowaczewski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken I paid special attention to Movement II. I knew it was longer than the other three movements. I knew it was to be played “very solemnly.” I knew even a hack conductor and a high-school band could probably make the Scherzo (Movement III) sound good.

So I paid close attention to Skrowaczewski’s interpretation of the Adagio in Bruckner’s Sixth.

And he didn’t let me down.

Skrowaczewski’s Adagio was many layered, emotional, and compelling. Rather than kind of wince my way through it – as I sometimes have to do listening to other conductors and orchestras – this one held my attention until the very last note.

The beef I have with this box set is that the liner notes are crap. Decent essays, sure. But scant information about the recordings themselves. For example, who edited the version for this performance? Haas? Nowak? Carrigan?

Although it’s claimed there’s only one version of Bruckner’s Sixth, that’s not quite true. Who edited it has a bearing on the final product.

The Scherzo was wonderful.

The Finale was stirring right to the denouement.

This recording is well above average, but just slightly below a full-blown “5” and an unreserved “Huzzah!” from me.

It’s more like a 4.5 and a “Huz-!”

If the liner notes were more complete, I’d say this box set by Skrowaczewski was a top contender for best cycle of Bruckner’s symphonies.

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