Day 6: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Barenboim)

My “office” this morning – Bagel Beanery, a local coffee shop and, well, bagel eatery.

Bagel Beanery is like Panera Bread Co. in that I can sit for hours using their Wi-Fi sipping coffee and eating an occasional bagel. It’s much smaller than Panera, though. So people watching is less enjoyable because there are fewer people.

Still, it’s a nice place to duck into for awhile to write.

Today, I start another cycle – Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (WAB 102), nicknamed “The Symphony of Pauses,” interpreted by Argentine-born pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (1942-), whom I saw conduct the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall on January 28th of this year.

The symphony that magical night was Bruckner’s Eighth.

Barenboim’s orchestra for today’s CD performance is the Berliner Philharmoniker.

The music label is Warner Classics, which was awarded “Label of the Year” at the 2016 Gramophone Awards in London last October.

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.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor was completed in 1872, and revised, like most of Bruckner’s other symphonies, at various points thereafter. This work is sometimes known as the “Symphony of Pauses”.

It was composed after the Symphony “No. 0” in D minor (which was itself composed after the Symphony No. 1 in C minor). It is the only “official” Bruckner symphony (that is to say, excluding “No. 0”) without a dedication: Franz Liszt tacitly rejected the dedication, and Richard Wagner chose the Symphony No. 3 in D minor instead. The premiere was given with Bruckner himself conducting in 1873.

And this from a different Wikipedia entry about the Second:

Symphony No. 2 in C minor

The Symphony No. 2 in C minor of 1872 was revised in 1873, 1876, 1877 and 1892. It is sometimes called the Symphony of Pauses for its dramatic use of whole-orchestra rests, which accentuate the form of the piece. In the Carragan edition of the 1872 version, the Scherzo is placed second and the Adagio third. It is in the same key as No. 1.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s First in this leg of my journey, visit Day 1.

The way this works is I list all the objective stats first. Then, I offer my subjective opinions.

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (WAB 102), composed 1872
Daniel Barenboim conducts
Barenboim used the “Leopold Nowak Edition, 1965; revised Bornhoft and Carragan, 1997,” according to the CD sleeve
Berliner Philharmoniker plays
The symphony clocks in at 60:00
This was recorded in Berlin, Germany, in 1997
Barenboim was 55 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 42 when he finished composing it (the first time)
This recording was released on the Warner Classics label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 2 in C Minor), from this particular conductor (Barenboim) and this particular orchestra (Berliner Philharmoniker) is as follows:

I. Moderato……………………………………………………………………………………………………..19:07
II. Andante: Feierlich, etwas bewegt (Solemnly, somewhat animated)…………16:34
III. Scherzo: Mäßig schnell (Moderately fast)……………………………………………………7:31
IV. Finale: Ziemlich schnell (Fairly fast)……………………………………………………………19:12

The score calls for a pair each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings.

Total running time: 60:00

According to its entry on Wikipedia about the 1877 version,

1877 version

The editions by Robert Haas (published 1938) and Leopold Nowak (published 1965) are both based on this version.

Haas’ edition contains some features of the previous version, which, as in the 1890 version of the 8th symphony, were crossed out by Bruckner in the 1877 manuscript. The edition by William Carragan (published 1997) is a corrected Nowak edition. Most recordings of the symphony are made of the Haas and Nowak versions. The Carragan edition has been recorded by Daniel Barenboim.

From the wonderful liner notes in this CD box set, I quote from the essay (written by Hans Christian Schmidt-Banse) on Symphony No. 2 in C Minor:

Anton Bruckner was forty-seven when he broached his Second Symphony in 1871 and fifty-three when he produced a revised version in 1877. The argument among scholars over which of the two is the more authentic need not detain us here, though the effortful and often thorny road that led to the final version of all his symphonies is entirely typical of this music, the remarkably fragmented character of which continues to affect our perception of Bruckner even today: on the one hand we have the emotional naivety that leads straight to heaven and the dear Lord, while on the other we labour over passages of helpless brooding in which it is unclear why the music simply marks time and why, overcome by scruples, it vacillates and becomes bogged down.

Bruckner’s Second is no exception.

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 5 (a heavy booklet, 1/4-inch thick with lengthy essays translated into English, French, German, and what appears to be Portuguese)
How does this make me feel: 5

Double “Huzzah!”

This is a masterful performance in every way.

The instruments are very well recorded. The playing is exceptional. The version used (by William Carragan) is remarkable.

I love Bruckner’s Second. Especially the horn and pizzicato of the Andante (Movement II). That’s such a lovely paring. The smooth tones of the horns and the pizzicato of the strings grabs my attention every time. (It starts around the 2:45 mark and repeats at 6:38).

I can’t say enough good things about this performance. It could be one of the best I’ve heard in all my days of exploring Bruckner.

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