Bruckner: The Mature Symphonies - Symphony No 7 / Barenboim [blu-ray]

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BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 (1885 version) Daniel Barenboim, cond; Staatskapelle Berlin ACCENTUS/UNITEL 102177 (Blu-ray: 72:20) Live: Berlin 6/25/2010

It’s a bit confusing for Accentus/Unitel to refer to this Bruckner Seventh, filmed at the Berlin Philharmonie on June 25, 2010, as a performance of the symphony’s “original version.” The booklet for this Blu-ray release reproduces the title page of the 1885 Gutmann edition, which incorporated changes urged upon the composer by Franz Schalk, Ferdinand Löwe, and Arthur Nikisch, who conducted the premiere in December of 1884. In my mind, the score utilized for the first performance would be the “original version” and the only extant autograph copy already includes after-the-fact changes by Bruckner and his always-eager amenders. So, as far as is known, no “original version” of Symphony No. 7 exists. Amusingly, the Wikipedia entry for Robert Haas describes Daniel Barenboim as a proponent of the Austrian musicologist’s Bruckner editions. The most obvious feature of the Haas edition for non-specialists (such as me) is that the infamous cymbal crash (with triangle and timpani) at the climax of the Adagio is not included. The percussion is there in all its glory for this performance, as it is in Barenboim’s 1992 Teldec recording with the Berlin Philharmonic. So much for the idea of Barenboim as a Haas partisan.

With textual issues out of the way, I can report that Barenboim’s 2010 performance is a very effective one. His interpretation is less “architectural” than many others; Barenboim is happy to highlight small details in a score he knows very, very well (he conducts from memory) without at all underplaying the work’s monumentality. Some may prefer that the dotted figures in the third movement be more tightly wound—Bruckner’s scherzos work best when a maniacally insistent subject contrasts with sunny, relaxed interludes—but that’s a minor complaint. This is a coherent reading that delivers the big picture and pulls the listener in, as it clearly did the audience present at the Philharmonie.

The sound is good, though the strings are a little dull at the outset of the Adagio, as if upper partials are missing. Passages with the four tenor tubas possess a thoroughly Wagnerian sonic density—the composer’s intention, of course. Video quality is superb, with the detail provided of string instruments often eye-popping. (Unfortunately, some knuckle hair is part of the package with this degree of visual resolution.) The editing style is a little jumpy for my taste; especially with a work such as this, I’d prefer more longer takes of the conductor building his performance. Still, this is a video performance of Bruckner’s E-Major Symphony well worth considering.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ACC102177

  • UPC: 4260234830590

  • Label: Accentus

  • Composer: Anton Bruckner

  • Conductor: Daniel Barenboim

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra


  1. Symphony no 7 in E major, WAB 107

    Composer: Anton Bruckner

    Ensemble: Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra

    Conductor: Daniel Barenboim