LSO / Rattle review – a Brucknerian labor of love | Classical music

Bruckner is not the only composer whose music exists in several revisions. But he has few rivals as the most compulsive tinkerer in music. by Bruckner fourth symphony, in particular, underwent multiple and substantial modifications between its first incarnation in 1874 and its more or less final version in 1881 which counts among its most popular works. Some of the most important examples provided the inspiration for this highly imaginative LSO concert under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle.

In the first half, Rattle led the LSO in movements dropped from earlier versions of the symphony: a scherzo that was later dropped in favor of the more familiar “chase” alternative, and the composer’s second stroke to write the finale, a move that continued to trouble Bruckner for years. In the second part, Rattle went on to give the world premiere of a new reworking of the final version of the symphony by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs for the Bruckner Complete Edition based in Vienna and published this year.

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While the early rarities were playful and exciting, even if it was to hear them in the flesh, it wasn’t hard to hear why Bruckner made his changes. The abandoned scherzo of 1874, whose obsessive horn calls trigger frenzied and nervous responses from the rest of the orchestra, is echt Bruckner agrees, but it lacks the epic consistency of the hunting movement that supplanted it. Meanwhile, the so-called ‘Volksfest’ (folk festival) finale of 1878 – apparently receiving its very first professional performance in this country – is like a sampling of some of the composer’s ideas wedged between the sprawling final structure of four years before and the final version tighter and much more successful.

There should be more gigs like this though. The whole evening was a Brucknerian labor of love, mixing the obscure and the familiar, and provided further proof that Rattle embraced this composer more and more as he grew older. He’s also transformed into a much more authentic Brucknerian than he was 20 years ago. He now has the confidence to let the long lines of music breathe more. Highlights were unforced and majestic, with compelling, idiomatic slowdowns at key points. Throughout, the LSO performed with searing engagement and a true blossoming of their sound.

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