Day 102: Symphony No. 7 in E Major (Jochum)

BrucknerJochum1CD7FrontThis morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major (WAB 107) is German-born Eugen Jochum (1902-1987), unarguably one of the most highly respected interpreters of Anton Bruckner’s music who ever lived.

I have two CD box sets featuring Maestro Jochum – this one, on the DG label (which I call the “White Box”), and another on the Warner Classics label (which I call the “Green Box”). I chose to listen to the symphony from the DG set first because the recordings are older. (I figured alpha by conductor, then by chronological order was a fair enough delineator.)

As a reminder, this is from the Wikipedia entry for Jochum:

Jochum was born to a Roman Catholic family in Babenhausen, near Augsburg, Germany; his father was an organist and conductor. Jochum studied the piano and organ in Augsburg, enrolling in its Academy of Music from 1914 to 1922. He then studied at the Munich Conservatory, with his composition teacher being Hermann von Waltershausen; it was there that he changed his focus to conducting, his teacher being Siegmund von Hausegger, who conducted the first performance of the original version of the Ninth Symphony of Anton Bruckner and made the first recording of it.

Regarding his podium technique, Kenneth Woods blogs, “Look at his hands — very small and focused motions but so powerful.” Woods also states that “his sense of rubato, while still incredibly daring, is perhaps more un-erring than [that of] even Wilhelm Furtwängler.”

Jochum’s older brother Otto Jochum (1898–1969) was a composer and choral conductor; his younger brother Georg Ludwig Jochum (1909–1970) was, like Jochum, an orchestral conductor. His daughter Veronica Jochum is a pianist on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

Jochum died in Munich in 1987, at the age of 84. His wife Maria predeceased him, in 1985.

The orchestra is the Berliner Philharmoniker.

So far, I’ve been privileged to hear 12 performances conducted by Maestro Jochum – six from the “White Box” and six from the “Green Box.” As I’ve discovered, I prefer one of those box sets over the other. But I’ll save the subjective stuff for later.

I first encountered Eugen Jochum (in my 144-day project) on Day 6, Symphony No. 1 (White Box)

Then again on Day 22, Symphony No. 2 (White Box).

And again on Day 38, Symphony No. 3 (White Box).

And again on Day 54, Symphony No. 4 (White Box).

And again on Day 70, Symphony No. 5 (White Box).

And again on Day 86 Symphony No. 6 (White Box).

Just the facts, Ma’am:

BrucknerJochumBox1Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major (WAB 107) composed 1881-1883
Eugen Jochum conducts
Jochum used the ??? edition (no edition – Haas? Novak? Carrigan? – is specified)
Berliner Philharmoniker plays
The symphony clocks in at 67:57 (getting into Yikes! territory)
This was recorded in Berlin, Germany, in October of 1964
Jochum was 62 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 59 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Deutsche Grammophon (DG) label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 7 in E Major, edition unknown), from this particular conductor (Jochum) and this particular orchestra (Berliner Philharmoniker) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato…………………………………………………………………………20:37
II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam…………………………………..25:00
III. Scherzo. Sehr schnell…………………………………………………………………..9:44
IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht schnell……………………………………………12:36

Total running time: 67:57

Now, the subjective aspects.

At 67:57, this seemed very long. And yet it was only the second longest performance of the five conductors I heard previously:

Haitink – 60:15
Gielen – 58:32
Ahronovitch – 67:25
Chailly – 69:06
Barenboim – 66:36

However, Jochum’s (“White Box”) interpretation did feature the longest Adagio – by three minutes! – of any I’ve heard to date:

Barenboim – 22:57
Chailly – 22:48
Ahronovitch – 22:11
Gielen – 16:03
Haitink – 21:00
Jochum – 25:00

Thankfully, the 25-minute Adagio (despite being nearly 10 minutes longer than the shortest one, from Maestro Gielen) held my attention. I don’t know what caused the excess minutes. Was the tempo retarded slightly? Was the version he used different from that used by other conductors?

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 4 (includes two superb essays, one by Jochum)
How does this make me feel: 5

I was enthralled by this recording. It was rich, deep, spacious, energetic, and compelling. My beef with this box set lies in its lack of edition/version information. I suppose I could read through the essays to see if an editor was named. But I shouldn’t have to. That information ought to be front and center.

So I knocked off a point in the CD liner notes category.

But, given the age of this recording (53 years!), and the quality of it, I’d say that was a minor quibble. This is a fine performance of historical importance. I’m glad the DG label preserved it and released it in this box set.


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