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ALBUM REVIEW

Budapest Festival Orchestra, Bruckner Symphony No. 7

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7

Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer

Channel Classics

Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer is given to fleet, uninflated readings of epic composers like Wagner and Mahler. In his debut Bruckner recording, he conjures Schubert, light-footed but not lightweight. It’s a period-instrument approach without the period instruments that Philippe Herreweghe employs. If your taste runs to big, brooding Bruckner, this is not for you, but Fischer’s phrasing and paragraphing are thoughtful, and he rarely sounds small-scaled.

The opening Allegro moderato is medieval rather than romantic or vatic, darkly glowing in its viola-and-cello statement of the first subject, and it goes at an actual allegro clip, even observing the score’s injunction to get “faster and faster” as it sprints to the finish. Vibrato is discreet, but Bruckner’s changes in mood (including notes of hysteria) are well observed, and there’s real agony when that first subject reappears in the development.

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The Adagio, at just over 18 minutes, arguably ignores Bruckner’s “very solemn and very slow” direction; the norm for this movement is around 22 minutes, and Eugen Jochum managed to stretch it to 25 without wallowing. Fischer makes a case for his stoic approach, but when he shifts into a faster tempo for the second subject (as the score directs), he winds up conveying wistful consolation rather than heartbreak. The Scherzo is jaunty rather than juggernautish; the kinetic Finale might have given more weight to its stentorian third theme. But what a pleasure to hear exhilarating, exuberant Bruckner!

Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffreymgantz@gmail.com.
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