Day 41: Symphony No. 7 in E Major (Barenboim)

A new cycle of Bruckner symphonies begins today!

This morning, I am listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major (WAB 107) 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.

NOTE: I have two Barenboim CD box sets for this leg of my Bruckner journey. The first (which I call the “Blue Box”) is on the Warner Classics label. The second (which I 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 dates of performance.

That’s the plan.

Because today’s recording comes from the Blue Blox, Barenboim’s orchestra for this performance is the Berliner Philharmoniker. And the music label is Warner Classics, which was awarded “Label of the Year” at the 2016 Gramophone Awards in London last October.

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

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s (“Blue Box”) interpretation of Bruckner’s Second in this leg of my journey, visit Day 6.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s (“Blue Box”) interpretation of Bruckner’s Third in this leg of my journey, visit Day 11.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Barenboim’s (“Blue Box”) interpretation of Bruckner’s Fourth in this leg of my journey, visit Day 17.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Bareenboim’s (“Blue Box”) interpretation of Bruckner’s Fifth in this leg of my journey, visit Day 25.

If you want to know what I thought of Maestro Bareenboim’s (“Blue Box”) interpretation of Bruckner’s Sixth in this leg of my journey, visit Day 33.

One of the reasons why I love these musical explorations that I impose on myself from time to time is that I enjoy learning. With each symphony, orchestra, box set, music label, conductor, musician, and composer, I learn a great deal that I didn’t know before.

In this case, because today starts a new cycle of symphonies, I get to learn about Symphony No. 7 in E Major.

To that end, the following is from its entry on Wikipedia:

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E major (WAB 107) is one of his best-known symphonies. It was written between 1881 and 1883 and was revised in 1885. It is dedicated to Ludwig II of Bavaria. The premiere, given under Arthur Nikisch and the Gewandhaus Orchestra in the opera house at Leipzig on 30 December 1884, brought Bruckner the greatest success he had known in his life. The symphony is sometimes referred to as the “Lyric”, though the appellation is not the composer’s own, and is seldom used.

Use by the Nazis

According to Frederic Spotts’ Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, Adolf Hitler compared this symphony favorably with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. When he consecrated a bust of Bruckner at Regensburg’s Walhalla temple in 1937, the Adagio from the Seventh was played as Hitler stood in quiet admiration. A recording of the Adagio was played before the official radio announcement of the German defeat at Stalingrad on 31 January 1943 and before Reich President Karl Dönitz announced Hitler’s death on Radio Berlin on 1 May 1945; a recording by Furtwängler was used.

From the excellent liner notes for Symphony No. 7 (written by Marion something; I can’t tell what her last name is because one of the characters is in German):

Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, composed between 23 November 1881 and 5 September 1883, initially provoked controversy at the time: the Frankfurt Zeitung praised Bruckner for “genius approaching that of Beethoven and, indeed, in certain properties worthy of comparison with Beethoven.”

Here are the objective aspects of today’s performance:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major (WAB 107), composed 1881-1883
Daniel Barenboim conducts
Barenboim used the ??? version (no info available regarding version or editor)
Berliner Philharmoniker plays
The symphony clocks in at 70:40
This was recorded in Berlin, Germany, in February of 1992
Barenboim was 50 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 59 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Warner Classics label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 7 in E Major), from this particular conductor (Barenboim) and this particular orchestra (Berliner Philharmoniker) is as follows:

I. Allegro moderato………………………………………………………………………………..21:54
II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam…………………………………………..24:53
III. Scherzo. Sehr schnell………………………………………………………………………..10:23
IV. Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht schnell……………………………………………………13:29

Total Time: 70:40

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

Lovely.

Sublime.

Lyrical.

Muscular.

Wagneresque.

“Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!”

I really like this Barenboim box set. So far, it’s been the one to beat in this leg of my Bruckner journey.

This performance is very well recorded and expertly interpreted, like they all have been from this set.

The Scherzo is so over-the-top grand that I can’t help but think of Richard Wagner. I had forgotten how much I like this particular Scherzo. And Barenboim gives it all the gusto it calls for.

Highly recommended.

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