Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 / Mahler: Symphony No. 7 / Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 / Mariss Jansons / Simone Young

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
BRKLASSIK SACD 403571900100 TT: 65:10

MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 in E minor "Song of the Night."
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
BRKLASSIK SACD 403571900101 TT: 77:31

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Hamburg Philharmonic Orch/Simone Young, cond.
OEHMS CLASSICS SACD OC 638 (2 disks) TT: 30:45 & 51:58

Like many other orchestras, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra is now issuing recordings of some of their live performances, and here we have two conducted by Mariss Jansons. Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, recorded in Vienna's Musikverein November 4, 2007, and Mahler's Symphony No. 7 from performances March 8-9, 2007 in Munich's Philharmonie. Both are quality releases, particularly the Bruckner which is on a grand scale and has superb sonics—the sound of a large orchestra spread across your speakers. It seems amazing that Mahler's Symphony No. 7, neglected for years by most conductors and recording companies, now has more than 50 recordings including a famous 1976 version with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra conducted by Rafael Kubelik. This new one is not as exalted and not helped by somewhat diffuse sonics. Horns are too distant and there is not much impact to percussion. And the Mahler Seventh to own is the definitive performance on DVD with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw recorded Christmas Day 1985, from a Philips set reviewed on this site (REVIEW).

Bruckner specialist Simone Young already has recorded original versions of the composer's symphonies 2, 3 and 4; now we have have the mighty Eighth. The original version differs considerably from what we usually hear (although surely not to the extent of Symphony No. 4), and CD notes give quite detailed information about the changes. It does seem rather odd that Bruckner, at the height of his fame at the time this was composed, should have been so intimated by negative comments from conductor Hermann Levi, whom he respected greatly, made many changes most of which were incorporated into the later version by Robert Haas. This performance is excellent in every way, with the Hamburg Philharmonic in top form. Audio is equally fine, although perhaps a bit congested at times. The only debit here is the price: the two-SACD set sells for the price of two disks although total playing time is less than 83 minutes. This should have been a twofer.

R.E.B. (December 2009)