Composers: Bruckner, Wagner
Compositions: Symphonies Nos 6 and 9, Siegfried Idyll, Parsifal Prelude
Performers: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
Catalogue Number: DG 4836659 (2CD)

The Bruckner tradition runs deep in Leipzig, so the sense of idiomatic certainty in these performances is not surprising. What is noteworthy is the passion and energy, the sense of living through the music anew. The juxtaposition of Wagner and Bruckner on each disc (the Siegfried Idyll with the Sixth Symphony, the Prelude to Act I of Parsifal with the Ninth) brings fewer predictable results than you might imagine.

Bruckner’s take-outs from Wagner were instrumental colour and long-range harmonic thinking; unlike Wagner, he was no musical dramatist, and his music is concerned almost exclusively with states of feeling. In addition, while Wagner may not have been concise, he was consistent. Bruckner’s music is easily waylaid; no sooner has he worked his way up to a fervent, brass-bedecked climax than he might abandon it for low mutterings in the strings. His adoration of Wagner, one of history’s most influential composers for the theatre, is all the more fascinating given the lack of narrative drive in his own work.

In Parsifal, Wagner made art a religion; in his music, Bruckner turns his faith into art. These are some of the reasons Bruckner’s work is in the curious position of being played all over the world while being a niche interest. If you’re contemplating a step into Bruckner’s world, then these coherent, sincere and glowingly recorded performances would be
a fine way in.