Music Web International: Recording of the Month.
Symphony No.4 in E-flat major has belonged to Anton Bruckner's most popular works ever since its first performance, in Vienna 1881, when the composer was reportedly called out to take a bow after each movement. It is often called the ‘Romantic', a nickname that Bruckner himself used, most probably in reference to the literary genre of the medieval romance, rather than to the concept of romantic love. Indeed, Bruckner is claimed to have provided a sort of programme to the work, setting the scene for its opening as follows: ‘Medieval town – first daylight – on proud chargers knights sally forth ... the wonder of nature surrounds them ...' What was performed in Vienna in 1881 was a second, revised version of the symphony, which had actually already seen first light in 1874. In spite of the success of the revised version, further revisions took place before publication, resulting in the so-called ‘1888 version' recorded here. Although this remained the preferred version for several decades, it later became discredited, as it was assumed that the revisions it contained were the product of others than the composer himself. The rehabilitation of the 1888 version is to a large extent due to the efforts of the musicologist Benjamin Korstvedt, who in 2004 prepared the first modern edition of the 1888 version for the Bruckner Collected Works edition. In his liner notes to the present disc, Korstvedt discusses this background, giving a number of interesting illustrations of the differences between editions.
It has been said that Bruckner took Beethoven's Symphony No.9 as the starting point for his symphonies. It therefore seems logical that Osmo Vänskä and his Minnesota Orchestra have chosen to record this work after their acclaimed cycle of Beethoven's symphonies. Re-released as a boxed set in 2009, the Beethoven recordings were described as ‘unquestionably one the great Beethoven cycles' on website ClassicsToday.com and ‘unswervingly rewarding' in Classic FM Magazine, while the reviewer in American Record Guide found it ‘hard to think of a more distinguished Beethoven cycle by an American orchestra since the legendary Toscanini traversal of 1939.'
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