Composer: Anton Bruckner
Orchestra: Munchener Philharmoniker
Conductor: Rudolf Kempe
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Size: 512 MB
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, WAB.104 (ed. Nowak)
I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell
II. Andante quasi allegretto
IV. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
Symphony No.5 in B flat major, WAB.105
I. Introduction: Adagio – Allegro
II. Adagio: Serh langsam
III. Scherzo: Molto vivace (schnell). Trio: Im gleichen Tempo
IV. Finale: Adagio – Allegro moderato
Kempe in the Teutoberg Forest
Set in the 1970s, Walter Abish’s novel `How German is it” ponders to what degree our Teutonic friends are still Switzerland’s bad-arse neighbour and if so, on what level. Having had the stuffing beaten out of them twice, has there been a metaphysical shift in their ontology? After all, the next invasion of France is long overdue. When under hypnosis, Ulrich raises his right arm in a salute in the last paragraph of the novel, it’s evident that in this instance, the old gods are merely dormant not extinct.
Whatever the answer to this question be, a San Andreas Fault Bruckner-wise separates the older generation of conductors from the new. Notables such as Siegmund von Hausegger (what a Ninth!), Walter, Furtwangler, Abendroth, Knappertsbusch, Karajan, Klemperer, Stein, Tennstedt, Kempe et al operate in a different sphere to the likes of Christian Thielemann, Christoph Eschenbach or Marcus Bosch, to say nothing of foreign grafts such as Abbado and Rattle. I call it the Arminus Gene: the former has it in spades whereas the latter category is destitute. It is most applicable to the Fourth Symphony which inculcates a longing for the primeval forest where principalities and powers abound. Can one evoke this realm?
This performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony is as German as a Jagdpanther – it’s so evident from the very first bar. Rudolf Kempe – a man who saw not a few horrors in his lifetime – is a natural in this domain: he is patient and deeply conversant with the numinosity of the score. His mastery of the long lines is exemplary. While the Munich Philharmonic is not quite in the same league as its counterparts in Berlin, Dresden and Vienna, it’s entirely idiomatic and bets the house within its parameters. The analogue recording is warm and detailed.
There are more powerful Fourths in discography. Even so, this performance will lead you into the heart of the great forest.