BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 6, in A Major
Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orch/ Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, cond.
Arte Nova 54456 (B) (DDD) TT: 56:53

To the Bruckner recordings that Poland's most distinguished living conductor has been making with various orchestras stateside as well as in Europe (No. 4 with the Hallé in Manchester for IMP, No. 9 with the Minnesota in Minneapolis for Reference Recordings, and No. 7 with the Saarbrücken Radio on Arte Nova), Skrowaczewski and the last-named orchestra on the last-named label have added Symphony No. 6, allegedly the runt of the Bruckner litter after No. 2. It's not a work I know well, although I have (it turns out, to my surprise), Günter Wand's 1988 live performance at Hamburg with the NRD Orchestra on RCA; an off-the-air cassette by Esa-Pekka Salonen (!) with the French National Radio Orchestra; Rafael Kubelik's of 1982, live with the Chicago Symphony, in an Archive issue for one of the orchestra's annual fund drives, plus memories (although not clear ones) of Klemperer, Karajan, Barenboim and others from bygone discs or concerts. The Sixth is neither a favorite work nor one I have listened to for years, literally. Truth to tell, I'm not a Bruckner maven -- all those sequences, und so weiter.

Having confessed that, I found the Skrowaczewski both nobly spoken and played with unexpected finesse by the Rundfunkmänner u. -Damen von Saarbrücken. This is no Philharmoniker in the Berlin, Vienna or Amsterdam league, but it plays with character, sonority, stylistic perception, and very cleanly for their painstaking conductor. Tempi are unfailingly "just," and the Adagio: Sehr feierlich slow movement (three full minutes longer than Wand's) is memorably eloquent. I don't want to get into which edition his may be -- that can be like those subject-searches on Netscape or AOL that shunt you, unbidden, from purveyor to purveyor until there's no choice but to close everything down and clean up the hard drive before resuming. Arte Nova's brief, trilingual annotation makes no mention of editions. One could argue that a spaciously recorded, meticulously musical CD retailing in most outlets for $6 shouldn't be expected to supply comprehensive program notes.

But, hey, Naxos does for the same price.

R.D. (Sept. 1999)