With this Seventh Symphony, Andris Nelsons continues his triumphant progress through a complete Bruckner cycle. The release showcases superb playing (the Gewandthaus Orchestra premiered this work), to match both conducting and recording. Nelsons gets everything just right: tempos are convincing, architecture is long-arched, bold and heroic without missing any detail (Nelsons builds like a Mughal emperor and finishes like a jeweller) and the overall sound is magnificently burnished. In other words, Nelson’s vision of the symphony works.
As with the two previous efforts (Symphonies Nos 3 and 4) the pulse is excellent. The halo of string and brass sonorities at the beginning immediately enveloped me and gives way to a tempo and rhythm which are quite jaunty (not a word one readily associates with Bruckner), which creates a perfect flow introducing each “idea” naturally, but leavened with drama to culminate in a marvellously controlled coda.
The Gewandthaus’s flute dances gorgeously through the main section of this movement. The tempo of the great Adagio was very slow and reminded me of Eugen Jochum’s incomparable grasp of the huge spans in this movement. In
the coda, composed after Bruckner heard of the death of Wagner, his unlikely hero, the Wagner tubas, bass tuba and horns cry out their threnody de profundis, to produce possibly the most moving experience in all Bruckner’s music. In the Scherzo, the swinging effect is quite powerful and slightly ominous with the “Two Lovely Black Eyes” Trio effecting the right contrast. In the curious finale, the orchestra darts
around with themes in search of a resolution.
The generous fill-up – Siegfried’s Funeral March from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung – is especially piquant. Bravissimo!