Day 34: Symphony No. 6 in A Major (Barenboim)

Today, I am sick as a dog.

But I’m soldiering through, listening to Daniel Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Sixth.

Also, I’m at one of my favorite eateries, enjoying three of the best chili dogs ever to grace a plate.

“Three with everything” is how you order them at Red Hot Inn.

They arrive looking like this, with a slice of pickle on each one. Chili and onions underneath.

Delicious.

These hot dogs almost make me feel like I’m not going to die at any moment from this raging cold.

Speaking of which, I hope my health doesn’t affect my listening experience.

This afternoon, I am listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A Major (WAB 106) interpreted by Argentine-born pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (1942-), whom I saw conduct the Staatskapelle Berlin in a performance of Bruckner’s Eighth at Carnegie Hall on January 28th of this year. (I’ll never stop bragging about that. It was one of the highlights of my life.)

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 by years recorded.

That’s the plan.

Because today’s recording comes from the Pink Blox, Barenboim’s orchestra for this performance is the Staatskapelle Berlin. And the music label is Deutsche Grammophon, one of my all-time favorite labels for Classical music.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s First with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 2.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Second with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 7.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Third with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 12.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Fourth with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 18.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Fifth with Staatskapelle Berlin (“Pink Box”) in this leg of my journey, visit Day 26.

If you don’t want to know about those previous performances, keep reading.

In my previous exploration of Bruckner conductors (144 Days With Bruckner And Me), I established a system whereby I posted the objective information first. Then “rated” what I was hearing and reading at the end.

That’s how I’ve been doing it this time around, too.

I won’t go into great detail, but I do want to point out again that thanks to the information in the “Pink Box” I discovered two things about Daniel Barenboim that I didn’t know before:

1. He 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.

2. He’s an author. Once I discovered that, I bought two of his books, one I’ve already started reading called Everything Is Connected: The Power of Music.

And now it’s time for the objective stats about today’s performance:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A Major (WAB 106), composed 1879–1881
Daniel Barenboim conducts
Barenboim used the “Leopold Nowak rev. edition, 1952,” according to the liner notes
Staatskapelle Berlin plays
The symphony clocks in at 52:28
This was recorded in Berlin, Germany, in June of 2010
Barenboim was 68 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 57 when he finished composing it
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. 6 in A Major), from this particular conductor (Barenboim) and this particular orchestra (Staatskapelle Berlin) is as follows:

I: Majestoso…………………………………………………………………………………………………………14:46
II: Adagio. Sehr feierlich (Very solemnly)……………………………………………………………15:01
III: Scherzo. Nicht schnell (Not fast) — Trio. Langsam (Slowly)……………………………8:38
IV: Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast)…………14:03

Total Time: 52:28

Of this edition, its entry on Wikipedia tells us,

Revisions and editions

The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Symphonies represent Bruckner’s period of confidence as a composer, and apart from his unfinished Ninth Symphony, they are the only symphonies in which Bruckner did not make extensive revisions. In fact, the Sixth Symphony is the only Bruckner symphony that was exempt from any revisions from the composer himself. However, Gustav Mahler made substantial changes to the score before he conducted the 1899 premiere of the symphony in its entirety, revisions unsanctioned by Bruckner as they were posthumous.

The Sixth Symphony was also first published in 1899, a task overseen by Cyrill Hynais, a former student of Bruckner. However, this edition encompassed a few minute changes from Bruckner’s original score, namely the repetition of the second half of the Trio in the third movement. The next edition was printed only in 1935, edited by Robert Haas, and is the edition most commonly performed today. In 1951 Leopold Nowak also published an edition that was an exact replication of Bruckner’s original 1881 score. The edition performed under the direction of Mahler for the premiere was never published.

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
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: 3

This wasn’t as good as the performance I heard yesterday, despite some really nice pizzicato and horns in the Scherzo and some lush passages in the Finale.

If I had to choose one word to describe the performance, I’d choose “Stately.”

It’s prim and proper. It’s lush.

But it seems far too safe. Too contained. It doesn’t crackle with life like the performance by the Berliner Philharmoniker did yesterday.

Plus, and I’m sure this will be a refrain I use for the next symphonies from this box set, I don’t like how this is recorded. It doesn’t have the depth and separation that yesterday’s performance did. It’s not as airy.

This isn’t to say that this isn’t a fine performance. In many ways it is. It’s just not the performance for me. I’ve heard better.

Yesterday, in fact.

This one never catches fire. Not even the Finale, which is played quite well – but lacking the magic I need in my Classical music performances.

Not even the riotous applause at the end of the Finale sways me.

I know what it’s like to applaud Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin. We did it at Carnegie Hall, standing on our feet, for something like 12-15 minutes. It was much deserved.

This…?

I dunno. I didn’t feel it.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between hearing a symphony on CD or on the radio and being there in person.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a live performance, sitting with fellow Brucknerians, watching Daniel Barenboim wave his hands to and fro. The applause at the end of such an experience is genuine and heartfelt – even if the music later seems less than magical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.