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LSO - Bruckner - Symphony No 4

If you like late nineteenth century orchestral music, perhaps with a classical structure, there is no shortage of works by Brahms. For sheer sensuality, perhaps Wagner would be your preference. The music of Bruckner is somewhere between and conductors are definitely drawn to his symphonies.

Perhaps it’s to do with the many hours Bruckner spent at the organ. He had plenty of time while organist at the monastery of St Florian in Upper Austria to ponder its sonorities. When he took up composing, he was never going to leave those sounds behind. He still wanted colour and vastness – but on an even grander scale. With Bruckner, the potential of the orchestra becomes the stuff of an organist’s fantasy.

Bruckner’s scores are built up of complementary colours and sounds. Loads of them. Mid-way through the first movement of the fourth symphony the brass opens up great caverns of sound over tremolando strings: hard not to think of Bruckner back at the keyboard, pulling out all the stops and getting a bit of a power trip.

The fourth symphony is a gift for any conductor who relishes a large orchestral palette. For Bernard Haitink, Bruckner is something of a speciality and his management of the huge orchestra is miraculous. Whilst an apprentice might struggle with Bruckner’s forces, particularly a potentially dominant brass section, Haitink gives a masterclass in orchestral balance. He also paces it brilliantly.

The stars of this Bruckner fourth are undoubtedly the orchestral players, particularly the brass and the LSO’s principal horn David Pyatt, who gives a stunning rendition of the opening. Cantering through Bruckner’s forest glades has never been a more attractive prospect than in this company. The climax of the first movement and the bursts of brass in the fourth are shattering. This really is a fourth symphony to share with the neighbours. But not too loud too late at night!

James Mallinson, LSO Live Producer

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