Author Topic: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski  (Read 4753 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Michel

  • Guest
Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« on: June 04, 2007, 11:11:03 AM »
Having recently purchased the Bruckner Skrowaczewski cycle (the newly released Oehms classics set, without the annoying sleeves of the previous release) I was keen to put on the Bruckner symphony I know best, his 9th.

I was once asked by a friend, “Why do you like Bruckner given that you are an atheist?” Taken aback and probably a little frustrated by this question, my answer I suspect was pretty unordered and not very convincing. Although this does more to suggest the genius of Bruckner than it does my own lack of expression. After all, is the glory of music not its ability to express what we somehow feel or think but cannot convey into words?

My only thought now is that I wished I had this particular recording when I was asked that question for I would answer it in the only way possible: back through the music itself. For Skrowaczewski’s 9th represents perfectly why I love Bruckner. He displays, and this is evident from just one listen, Bruckner in earthly clothes…But let us start in more concrete terms.

The first thing that strikes you about this reading is Skrowaczewski’s control in maintaining regular tempi, while patterning the music by a masterful and intelligent use of changes in dynamic and balance. At times, this conveys a great ferocity and an aggressive, rampant momentum - an explosiveness probably unequalled in record - yet in other places, the dynamic conveys a wonderful delicacy. His use of brass illustrates this well; for despite their dominance and ferocity in the recording, the distinction within it, between the horns, trumpets and trombones, is also always clearly audible, and there are specific moments, particularly in the final movement though also throughout the recording, that are an absolute delight to hear. 

These changes in balance throughout the piece are done so forcefully with a distinct vein of anger, that you become convinced that this is not a godly piece of music. Instead of being a slow, measured ascension into contact with God, as other recordings demonstrate, it feels to me like a struggle with earthly existence without any promise of another life. No profundity is lost; instead it emanates very powerfully from a tragic realization of existence itself. This reaches its highest expression in the second movement, where the chromaticism is less pronounced than in other recordings as it is overcome with great (earthly) savagery. If this music were the soundtrack to life, Hobbes maxim, “nasty, brutish and short”, would be very true. Even in the wondrous third movement, the symphony does not strike you as godly; it is too dark – it does not reach the higher senses of being that the listener can feel in other recordings. Whether this is intentional or not we may never know, but it certainly seems like Skrowaczewski is not searching for a message in the music nor creating his own. Instead its natural beauty emanates brilliantly with a subtlety, delicacy and lightness; as a listener you are moved, shocked and at times cracked out of your equilibrium, but you are never weighed down. In this sense, we are all sufferers, as Kundera said, of “The unbearable lightness of being”.

Choo Choo

  • Guest
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2007, 01:13:35 PM »
Excellent review, Michel.  I've been singing the praises of that particular set for a long time, glad to see someone else actually buy it.  It has this muscular, gritty texture: profound yet clear-eyed - realistic and unsentimental.

Skrowaczewski recorded another fine 9th with the Minnesota Orchestra, but of the two I think the Saarbrücken recording just shades it.

There's also a 4th which Skrowaczewski recorded with the Hallé, of which I'm unreasonably fond - not because it's a particularly strong performance (it's not) - but for being a perfect example of how to impart forward momentum to a Bruckner performance through the sheer timing of the way the notes fall.  Must dig out #4 from the Saarbrücken set to see how it compares - haven't heard that for a long time.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2007, 01:16:08 PM by Choo Choo »

Offline MishaK

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3774
    • Tonic Blotter
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2007, 01:39:18 PM »
I was once asked by a friend, “Why do you like Bruckner given that you are an atheist?” Taken aback and probably a little frustrated by this question, my answer I suspect was pretty unordered and not very convincing. Although this does more to suggest the genius of Bruckner than it does my own lack of expression. After all, is the glory of music not its ability to express what we somehow feel or think but cannot convey into words?

The question reveals more about many believers' inability to comprehend the possibility of spirituality and morality in the absence of a higher being.

Steve

  • Guest
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2007, 02:54:23 PM »
Having recently purchased the Bruckner Skrowaczewski cycle (the newly released Oehms classics set, without the annoying sleeves of the previous release) I was keen to put on the Bruckner symphony I know best, his 9th.

I was once asked by a friend, “Why do you like Bruckner given that you are an atheist?” Taken aback and probably a little frustrated by this question, my answer I suspect was pretty unordered and not very convincing. Although this does more to suggest the genius of Bruckner than it does my own lack of expression. After all, is the glory of music not its ability to express what we somehow feel or think but cannot convey into words?

My only thought now is that I wished I had this particular recording when I was asked that question for I would answer it in the only way possible: back through the music itself. For Skrowaczewski’s 9th represents perfectly why I love Bruckner. He displays, and this is evident from just one listen, Bruckner in earthly clothes…But let us start in more concrete terms.

The first thing that strikes you about this reading is Skrowaczewski’s control in maintaining regular tempi, while patterning the music by a masterful and intelligent use of changes in dynamic and balance. At times, this conveys a great ferocity and an aggressive, rampant momentum - an explosiveness probably unequalled in record - yet in other places, the dynamic conveys a wonderful delicacy. His use of brass illustrates this well; for despite their dominance and ferocity in the recording, the distinction within it, between the horns, trumpets and trombones, is also always clearly audible, and there are specific moments, particularly in the final movement though also throughout the recording, that are an absolute delight to hear. 

These changes in balance throughout the piece are done so forcefully with a distinct vein of anger, that you become convinced that this is not a godly piece of music. Instead of being a slow, measured ascension into contact with God, as other recordings demonstrate, it feels to me like a struggle with earthly existence without any promise of another life. No profundity is lost; instead it emanates very powerfully from a tragic realization of existence itself. This reaches its highest expression in the second movement, where the chromaticism is less pronounced than in other recordings as it is overcome with great (earthly) savagery. If this music were the soundtrack to life, Hobbes maxim, “nasty, brutish and short”, would be very true. Even in the wondrous third movement, the symphony does not strike you as godly; it is too dark – it does not reach the higher senses of being that the listener can feel in other recordings. Whether this is intentional or not we may never know, but it certainly seems like Skrowaczewski is not searching for a message in the music nor creating his own. Instead its natural beauty emanates brilliantly with a subtlety, delicacy and lightness; as a listener you are moved, shocked and at times cracked out of your equilibrium, but you are never weighed down. In this sense, we are all sufferers, as Kundera said, of “The unbearable lightness of being”.


Excellent review, and interesting interpretation, Michel. Bruckner's 9th has always been a favourite, if only because I found it to be the most veiled from my understanding. I've often conceived of this piece, especially the final movement, as an expression of a man confronted not with his mortality, but rather, his immortality, as he awaits his own imminent judgment. Of course, I can see the validity of your approach, but I wonder if your interpretation is soured by an attempt to prove that ridiculous commentator wrong. He
wondered how you could appreciate the music of Bruckner as an atheist. One way to respond to that question would be to take one of his works, and interpret it in such a way, without any use of religious context. This is, of course, what you've done. The other, and eqally valid response, would be to acknowledge the religious subtext to the piece, and state your appreication of the symphony as an artistic piece. It is certianly not nessecary to subscribe to a religious text in order to appreciate the artistic merit of its music.

Of course, you may truly conceive of the entire work without the need for a religious subtext, (independent of a desire to 'prove' this person wrong), in which case, you can disregard my comment. But, whenever someone prefaces a review/comment with a miserable experience, I find it sours the whole work.

Michel

  • Guest
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2007, 03:11:39 PM »
The question reveals more about many believers' inability to comprehend the possibility of spirituality and morality in the absence of a higher being.

Great point, Mensch. And one I had thought at the time but failed to elucidate. I think to be frank, the original question was a silly one.

Offline 12tone.

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 592
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2007, 04:44:26 PM »
I say we get a magazine published called "GMG".  Everyone on this board can contribute.  Imagine reviews by Todd, Michel and others and concert reviews too :)

Sounds fun?

Steve

  • Guest
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2007, 04:54:11 PM »
I say we get a magazine published called "GMG".  Everyone on this board can contribute.  Imagine reviews by Todd, Michel and others and concert reviews too :)

Sounds fun?

Now that would be something.  :)

Offline Daverz

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 5762
  • You can't fool me, it's turtles all the way down!
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2007, 10:25:26 PM »
Stan is the man!

Choo Choo

  • Guest
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2007, 12:43:29 AM »
The other, and eqally valid response, would be to acknowledge the religious subtext to the piece, and state your appreication of the symphony as an artistic piece. It is certianly not nessecary to subscribe to a religious text in order to appreciate the artistic merit of its music.

This is true - even when the work is a setting of a particular text.

I find the whole notion of what a work means to be unhelpful and unnecessarily limiting.  What matters is how well it works as music.

Carl Nielsen presumably meant something by entitling his 4th symphony "Inextinguishable" but I'm very happy to say, I don't know what that is and have never felt the slightest need to find out.  This leaves me free to hear the music the way I want to - which may be different on different occasions or with different interpretations.

The different performances of Bruckner's 9th span a wide range of moods - from the solemn profundity of Giulini through to the wild theatricality of Keilberth - and what makes it such a great piece of music is that it supports all these different moods.  Which one is "right"?  All of them - and none of them.

Danny

  • Guest
Re: Bruckner 9 – Skrowaczewski
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2007, 11:02:42 AM »
I always looked at Bruckner's Ninth as the Divine Comedy of symphonies. He goes from earth, to purgatory, to Heaven in three movements.   
:'(   >:D   0:)