Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bruckner: Symphony #1

Today we'll tackle Bruckner for the second time by listening to his First Symphony.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896 )
Symphony #1 (1865-1866)
London, 1996

We've talked before about how it can be an intimidating investment in time to take on a fairly long classical music work like this 45-minute symphony.

So if you're looking to experience a more bite-sized portion of Bruckner's First, try starting out with the 12-minute second movement. The movement starts out almost atonally, but then resolves into particularly beautiful waves of overlapping melodies performed by the strings. Pay close attention from (roughly) the 2:36 mark to about the 5:00 minute mark for this section. Finally, see what you think of the triumphant final two minutes of the second movement. Those are two of my favorite parts of the entire symphony.

Let me share just a few thoughts on the Chicago Symphony, which performs today's CD, and why I love them. It's their brass section, and particularly their low brass: the trombones, bass trombone and tuba. These guys have just a huge sound and they are one of the orchestra's greatest strengths.

Keep in mind, the lower the register in which an instrument plays, the more power it takes to create a big sound (apologies for dipping into a bit of jargon there: a "big" sound is symphony-speak for really loud, but not off-key, blaring, or out of control. Likewise for the less official term "huge" used in the paragraph above).

A little sprite of a piccolo player can be heard on top of an entire orchestra because of the accoustics of her instrument--her high notes will soar above everything else. But the tuba and trombone section of the Chicago symphony have to tap into frighteningly awesome lungpower to create the massive, yet controlled, sonic foundation underlying this recording of Bruckner's First.

To me, these guys sound like seven foot tall giants.

NB: The disk in the link below is actually the same disk as the recording I own--one of the rare instances where I've been able to find the same recording on Amazon (usually I will substitute another disk by a reputable orchestra so you'll still be assured of a high-quality recording). This particular recording is of very high quality, and it will also give you a sense of what I'm talking about when I refer to the "big" sound of the Chicago Symphony.

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