Day 2: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Barenboim)

This morning, as the snow flies in Grand Rapids (remember, we had a thunderstorm yesterday), I am listening to Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (WAB 101), nicknamed “The Saucy Maid,” interpreted by Argentine-born pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (1942-).

I saw Maestro Barenboim conduct the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall on January 28th of this year.

The symphony that magical night was Bruckner’s Eighth.

Staatskapelle Berlin is Barenboim’s orchestra for today’s performance, too.

According to its entry on Wikipedia,

The Staatskapelle Berlin is a German symphony orchestra and the resident orchestra of the Berlin State Opera (Berliner Staatsoper Unter den Linden).

The orchestra traces its roots to 1570, when Joachim II Hector, Elector of Brandenburg established the rules for an orchestra at his court which had been constituted, at an unknown date. In 1701, the affiliation of the Electors of Brandenburg to the position of King of Prussia led to the description of the orchestra as “Königlich Preußische Hofkapelle” (Royal Prussian Court Orchestra), which consisted of about 30 musicians. The orchestra became affiliated with the Royal Court Opera, established in 1742 by Frederick the Great. Noted musicians associated with the orchestra have included Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Franz Benda, and Johann Joachim Quantz

The first concert by the ensemble for a wider audience outside of the royal courts was on 1 March 1783 at the Hotel Paris, led by Johann Friedrich Reichardt, the ensemble’s Kapellmeister.

The entire article on Wiki is fascinating. I encourage you to read about this historic orchestra.

Another fascinating entry on Wikipedia is this one, about the concert hall:

The Wiener Musikverein (Viennese Music Association) commonly shortened to Musikverein, is a concert hall in the Innere Stadt borough of Vienna, Austria. It is the home to the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.

The “Great Hall” (Großer Saal) due to its highly regarded acoustics is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world, along with Berlin’s Konzerthaus, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Boston’s Symphony Hall. None of these halls was built in the modern era with the application of acoustics science and all share a long, tall, and narrow shoebox shape.

“One of the finest concert halls in the world” surely gets my attention. Recording one of the world’s great symphonies, with one of the world’s great orchestras, using one of the world’s great conductors ought to make for one of the world’s great recordings, right?

We’ll see.

NOTE: I have two Barenboim CD box sets for this leg of my Bruckner journey. The first (which I’ll call the “Blue Box”) is on the Warner Classics label. The second (which I’ll call the “Pink Box”) is on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The performances in the Blue Box were recorded in the 1990s. The performances in the Pink Box were recorded much more recently, 2012 and 2010. So…alpha by conductor, then chronological. That’s the plan.

The composer is Austrian Anton Bruckner (1824-1896).

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor is cataloged as WAB 101.

I’ll post the following information one more time. Then, from tomorrow onward, I’ll omit it. From here on out I’m going to assume you know the score:

WAB stands for Werkverzeichnis Anton Bruckner. Werkverzeichnis means “catalog of works” in German.

It’s entry on Wikipedia tells us,

The WAB numbers…refer to the Werkverzeichnis Anton Bruckner. This is a thematic catalogue of the music of Anton Bruckner compiled by Renate Grasberger. Lost works, sketches, etc. were added afterwards. Some other, still unclassified, works were identified as WAB deest. The WAB uses a single range of numbers divided into subranges for genre classification. Grasberger sorted the compositions alphabetically by title within each of the subranges. For a few of the pieces, she used an alternate title which is less used today or classified them in different subranges than the current Gesamtausgabe.

The way I worked it last time (144 Days With Bruckner And Me), I posted the objective information first.

Then “rated” it at the end. That seemed to work for me. So I’ll do it that way this time.

By the way, I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel here.

If you want a bio of Daniel Barnenboim, background on Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, visit their respective links above, or see my first post (Day 1) from my 144 Days project.

What I’d like to do for this leg of my Bruckner journey is find different topics to explore and write about. Something new about each symphony, conductor, or orchestra.

For example, I just discovered that Daniel Barenboim started a music label called Peral Music, which bills itself as “For the thinking ear.”

It’s a very fine web site, with a lot of music, books, and DVDs featured on it.

According to its Philosophy page,

Peral invites curious minds to experience music with focus and new insights.

Today, music is heard everywhere: at the office, in restaurants, in airplanes, and the like. Yet how often do we genuinely listen, and hear with thought and concentration?

Curated exclusively by pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and featuring unique listening guides, Peral is a new record label that invites curious minds to experience music with focus and new insights.

Embracing the possibilities of digital access, Peral Music offers audiences worldwide an alternative way of listening, resisting a culture of indifference by celebrating the thinking ear.

I can dig that.

In fact, I already purchased three books written by or about Daniel Barenboim that I didn’t know existed until I visted Barenboim’s web site.

Now, you see, this is what I’m talking about when I wrote:

What I’d like to do for this leg of my Bruckner journey is find different topics to explore and write about. Something new about each symphony, conductor, or orchestra.

By the way, according to an article on the Universal Music Group web site,

Peral, whose logo has been designed by Barenboim’s good friend, the architect Frank Gehry, is Spanish for ‘pear tree’ – and the name Barenboim is the Yiddish form of the German ‘Birnbaum’ or ‘pear tree’. Thus the label brings together the different strands of Barenboim’s heritage.

And there you have it.

I’m going to have fun exploring Maestro Barenboim’s web site.

As for now, here are the objective stats about today’s performance:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (WAB 101), composed between 1865 and 1866
Daniel Barenboim conducts
Barenboim used the “Linz version – Leopold Nowak rev. edition 1955,” according to the liner notes
Staatskapelle Berlin plays
The symphony clocks in at 46:28
This was recorded in Vienna, Austria at the Musikverein Golden Hall, in 2012
Barenboim was 70 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 42 when he finished composing it (the first time)
This recording was released on the Peral Music label (licensed to Deutsche Grammophon)

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 1 in C Minor), from this particular conductor (Barenboim) and this particular orchestra (Staatskapelle Berlin) is as follows:

I. Allegro (C minor)……………………………………………………………………………………12:55
II. Adagio (A-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………..11:21
II. Scherzo: Lebhaft (lively)—G minor – Trio: Langsam (slowly)—G major…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..9:11
IV. Finale: Bewegt und feurig (with motion and pep)—C minor…………………………………………………………………………………………………………13:01

Total running time: 46:28

From its entry on Wikipedia:

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor (WAB 101) was the first symphony the composer thought worthy of performing, and bequeathing to the Vienna national library. Chronologically, it comes after the Study Symphony in F minor and before Symphony in D minor (“No. 0”). The first version of the Symphony No. 2 in C minor was completed after the Symphony in D minor.

The Symphony No. 1 was premiered under Bruckner in 1868. It was dedicated to the University of Vienna, after Bruckner was granted an honorary doctorate in 1891.

Bruckner gave it the nickname “das kecke Beserl”, roughly translated as “saucy maid”.

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 3 (very thin booklet with a sparse essay about Bruckner, the orchestra, and Barenboim translated into English, German, and French)
How does this make me feel: 5

This recording seems even more rich, powerful, and energetic than the one I heard yesterday.

I think it’s a better recording, and a better performance.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not. But this performance sounds warmer than the one did yesterday. I mention that because the CDs yesterday were marked DDD – an all-digital recording. In my experience, those tend to be drier, colder.

Once more, I was hooked from the opening melody of the Allegro. (And I still think the Scherzo – one of my favorites from all nine of Bruckner’s symphonies – reminds me of the theme song to the Hercule Poirot TV series. Look it up. You’ll see what I mean.)

I have to give this performance a very big “Huzzah!”

I’m a sucker for liner notes. Yesterday’s were far superior to the ones in this CD box set. If the package yesterday contained the music from today, I think I’d have the Holy Grail of Bruckner Symphonies. The liner notes in this box (the one I call the “Pink Box”) really suck.

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