DOUBLE-DISC ALBUM ALSO INCLUDES WAGNER’S SIEGFRIED IDYLL AND PRELUDE TO ACT I OF PARSIFAL
22 April 2019 (Toronto, ON) - Andris Nelsons’ revelatory readings of Bruckner’s symphonies are permeated by his understanding of the many contradictions within the composer’s character – not least the opposition between an essential awareness of his own talent and the insecurity that compelled him to rework his scores again and again. Set for release on May 3, the latest title in the Latvian conductor’s ongoing cycle for Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company, performed with his Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, prefaces Bruckner’s Sixth and Ninth Symphonies with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Prelude to Parsifal respectively. Light and dark, triumph and tragedy, life and death coexist here in a state of uneasy tension, resolved but never reconciled.
Bruckner’s symphonies are a minefield of multiple versions, confusing revisions and clashes between manuscript and published sources. Nelsons has opted to follow Leopold Nowak’s critical edition for these performances. The Sixth Symphony (1879-81), notable for its structural economy and clarity, was one of Bruckner’s favourites among his own works. Much of the work is striking for its dynamism, but at its emotional centre is the dark and troubled Adagio, whose music, as Nelsons observes, anticipates the soundworld of Mahler. While the Sixth was written within two years and spared from later revision by the composer, Bruckner laboured on his ninth and final symphony for much of the final decade of his life. Nelsons has followed convention to perform the Ninth in its three-movement form. The closing Adagio echoes the rising melody of the so-called “Dresden Amen” in homage to Wagner, who made prominent use of the theme in Parsifal.
As he told Gramophone in April 2018, Nelsons is determined, above all, “to show Bruckner the human being, with all his doubts, obsessions, as well as Bruckner the man who is very religious and lives according to certain strong rules, and how that sometimes conflicts with and sometimes fulfils his approach in his music.”
The Gewandhausorchester players bring the ambiguities inherent in Bruckner’s scores vibrantly to life. The composer is in the orchestra’s collective DNA. It embraced him when it gave the world premiere of his Seventh Symphony in 1884 and made history again soon after the First World War by performing the first complete cycle of his nine symphonies. “The Gewandhausorchester’s ability to play this music is very special”, says Nelsons, “there’s a sensitivity and intimacy that I like very much.”
He and the orchestra are now preparing to perform Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony at home in Leipzig (May9, 10, 12) as well as in Madrid (May 22), Tokyo (May 30) and Beijing (June 8). Their focus will then turn to the Eighth, which they will perform at some of this summer’s festivals – Rheingau Musik Festival (August 22), Lucerne (August 25) and Salzburg (August 28) – and then in Cologne (September 2), Essen (September 3) and Leipzig (September 5 & 6).
Andris Nelsons launched his Leipzig Bruckner cycle in May 2017 with the composer’s Third Symphony. The project continued with the release last year of albums devoted to the Fourth and Seventh Symphonies. “If anybody doubts that a conductor can have a far-reaching influence over an orchestra, this disc is a good place to start,” wrote the Financial Times (London) of the Fourth, while The Times (London) praised Nelsons’ lyrical phrasing in the Seventh, “important for generating the momentum that stops Bruckner’s quirky musical architecture freezing into separate blocks”.
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