Day 4: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Janowski)

This morning, I am listening to Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (WAB 101), nicknamed “The Saucy Maid,” interpreted by Polish-born German conductor Marek Janowski (1939-).

Janowski is another conductor about whom I knew nothing until readers of my 144 Days With Bruckner and Me web site told me I should consider listening to him.

So I did consider it.

And here I am listening to him.

Part of the reason why I start these vast music projects is to learn about the conductors, orchestras, and venues, as well as the composers and their music. So I’m more than happy to do research on Janowski.

According to his entry on Wikipedia,

Janowski grew up in Wuppertal near Cologne, Germany after his mother traveled there at the start of World War II to be with her parents. His father disappeared in Poland during the war.

Janowski has served as music director in Freiburg and at the Dortmund Opera conducting the Dortmunder Philharmoniker, the latter from 1973 to 1979. He served as Kapellmeister of the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne, from 1986 to 1990. Earlier, in 1984, he became the music director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (then called the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique) in Paris, a position he held until 2000. From 2000 to 2009, Janowski served as Principal Conductor of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also Principal Conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic from 2001 to 2004.

Janowski has conducted most of the major opera houses of the world (including Arabella, Salome and Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Metropolitan Opera). He has made a number of operatic recordings, including the first digital recording of the complete Ring Cycle of Richard Wagner between 1980 and 1983 for RCA, with the Staatskapelle Dresden.

His orchestra is Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

According to its entry on Wikipedia,

The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) is a Swiss symphony orchestra, based in Geneva at the Victoria Hall. In addition to symphony concerts, the OSR performs as the opera orchestra in productions at the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Ernest Ansermet founded the OSR in 1918, with a contingent of 48 players and a season of six months’ duration. Besides Swiss musicians, the OSR players initially came from other countries, including Austria, France, Germany and Italy. Ansermet gradually increased the percentage of Swiss musicians in the orchestra, attaining 80% Swiss personnel by 1946. Ansermet remained the music director of the OSR for 49 years, from 1918 to 1967.

Of special note this morning is the CD box set containing Maestro Janowski’s interpretation of Bruckner’s First, as well as the record label that released it.

The Pentatone label is carving out a niche for itself as the high-end source for audiophiles of Classical music. Everything about this Janowski box set – like the Georg Tintner box set released by Naxos I reviewed in my 144 days site – screams high quality. In fact, if I was going to release a cycle of a conductor’s symphonies, and I wanted to do it right, I’d do it this way, or the Naxos way.

The box is made of heavy cardboard with a top that slides off.

Inside is a treasure trove of CDs, a massive booklet of notes, and even a voucher for a free album.

I’m tellin’ ya, this is a keepsake box, given the treatment it deserves.

Anyway, from its entry on Wikipedia,

Pentatone (stylized as PENTATONE) is a Dutch classical music label specialising in high-end, 5-channel surround sound recordings.

Pentatone was founded in 2001 by three former executives of Philips Classics, Giel Bessels, Dirk van Dijk and Job Maarse. Its catalogue includes recordings by conductors Kent Nagano, Sir Neville Marriner, Mikhail Pletnev, Sir Colin Davis, Yakov Kreizberg, Simon Murphy and Lawrence Foster; instrumentalists Julia Fischer, Martin Helmchen, Mari Kodama, Arabella Steinbacher and Nareh Arghamanyan; and orchestras such as The Russian National Orchestra, The Wiener Symphoniker, The New Dutch Academy, the Bolshoi Opera and many others. Pentatone has also recorded a complete set of Richard Wagner’s operas by the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, conducted by Marek Janowski.

And there you have it – background on the conductor, the orchestra, and the record label that released the box set to which I’m listening this morning.

You’re welcome.

Here are the objective aspects of today’s recording:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (WAB 101), composed between 1865 and 1866
Marek Janowski conducts
Janowski used the “Linz version 1866, Nowak Edition,” according to the liner notes
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande plays
The symphony clocks in at 47:08
This was recorded at Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, in 2011
Janowski was 72 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 42 when he finished composing it (the first time)
This recording was released on the Pentatone label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 1 in C Minor), from this particular conductor (Janowski) and this particular orchestra (Orchestre de la Suisse Romande) is as follows:

I. Allegro (C minor)……………………………………………………………………………………11:59
II. Adagio (A-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………..12:41
II. Scherzo: Lebhaft (lively)—G minor – Trio: Langsam (slowly)—G major…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..8:25
IV. Finale: Bewegt und feurig (with motion and pep)—C minor…………………………………………………………………………………………………………14:00

Total running time: 47:08

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects of today’s recording:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 5 (big, thick, substantive booklet with insightful essays about the symphonies, the orchestra, and the conductor translated into English, German, and French)
How does this make me feel: 4

The one word the comes to mind when I listen to Janowski’s interpretation of Bruckner’s First is “playful.” I have no idea why. That’s how this interpretation strikes me – playful. Like Janowski and the orchestra are having a grand time playing this symphony.

It’s lithe rendition, too. It clocks in at a mere 47:08, so Janowski gets in, gets out, and leaves behind something marvelously fun to show for his efforts.

That’s what it sounds like – a light, playful touch.

Isn’t that odd that those words come to my mind?

This is a superb recording with each instrument given full space to be heard. That’s especially noticeable in the Allegro, especially the first minute or so. I’m hearing instruments I never really heard before.

I wasn’t going to give this the full “Huzzah!” treatment.

But, doggone it, I can’t help myself.

I’m a sucker for a high-quality package. And this is it – in spades. Everything about this CD box set tells me the people who own Pentatone love music.

Thank you, Pentatone!

And thank you, Maestro Janowski!

Oh, one more thing.

The folks at Pentatone included a Voucher for a Free Album download from their catalog. And not just any download – a lossless digital download in a high-quality WAV file.

That’s class, boys and girls. That’s a label that knows what it’s doing, loves the music, and respects its customers.

Class act all the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.