Day 109: Symphony No. 7 in E Major (Skrowaczewski)

BrucknerSkrowaczewski6FrontThis morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major (WAB 107) 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 (conducting Symphony No. 1) on Day 13 of my 144-day project.

Then again on Day 29, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 45, Symphony No. 3.

Then again on Day 61, Symphony No. 4.

Then again on Day 77, Symphony No. 5.

Then again, most recently, on Day 93, Symphony No. 6.

brucknerskrowaczeskibox

On to the facts of today’s recording…

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major (WAB 107), composed between 1881 and 1883
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts
Skrowaczewski used the ??? version, edited by ???
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken plays
The symphony clocks in at 68:45
This was recorded September 27 & 29, 1991, at Kongresshalle Saarbrucken, Germany
Skrowaczewski was 68 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 59 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. 7 in E Major [WAB 107]), from this particular conductor (Skrowaczewski) and this particular orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrucken) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato…………………………………………………………………………21:45
II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam…………………………………..24:46
III. Scherzo. Sehr schnell………………………………………………………………….9:33
IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht schnell……………………………………………11:45

Total running time: 68:45

From page 437 of the superb book Seeking the Infinite, the Musical Life of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, by Frederick Edward Harris, Jr.,

The abundance of Bruckner’s music he [Maestro Skrowaczewski] conducted that season [1993-94, in which he conduced multiple performances of seven Bruckner symphonies], elicited these observations [from Skrowaczewski]:

“If you understand and take pleasure in the music, then time somehow stops. It is like being in love or [being] with someone very pleasant, when you suddenly say, ‘Ah! So many hours just went!’ The involvement comes from understanding. You cannot come to it from perceiving music like entertainment, something that has a nice melody, a refrain. You have to understand the architecture of music and the beauty of the harmonies. If you have this, you follow the logic of the harmonic development and grasp that all repeats are really not identical Bruckner has many changes in polyphony and structure, which makes his music fascinating.”

For nearly fifty years Skrowaczewski’s outstanding performances of Bruckner’s symphonies nurtured a growing appreciation of the composer’s music throughout the world.

If you want to understand Maestro Skrowaczewski, Mr. Harris’ book is the place to start. It’s a huge, oversized book, exhaustive in its research. The link to buy it is in the second paragraph above.

And now for my subjective assessment:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (many ambient sounds but nothing overly distracting)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 3 (lengthy essays, but incomplete recording/version information)
How does this make me feel: 5

I must have a powerful case of Skrowaczewski worship, because this I think this performance is remarkable. To my ears, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Everything about this performance captivated me, from the mysterious, anticipatory violins that open Movement I to the horn explosion that closes the Finale. There’s a magic to this recording, a nearly palpable spirit of Something. Important. Is. Happening.

If these liner notes were better, this would be the Bruckner box set to beat.

Well, at least for this recording. I’ll total up all of the “ratings” for the box sets at the end of my project, look at the numbers.

But I seem to favor one or two of these conductors/orchestras/box sets/labels more than the others.

This is one of them.

Highly recommended.

“Huzzah!”

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