Frans Brüggen seems to be enjoying a renaissance in his recording career. One review described his readings of these two staples (depicting destinations on the Grand Tour) as having light-footed fluency. I disagree: His Italian Symphony sounds quite leaden in the first movement, rather as Klemperer might have conducted it but certainly didn’t (Klemperer’s reading is one of the fastest in the catalogue). Brüggen’s Italy won’t have the Grand Tourists reaching for their 30+ sunblock either. There’s not much dazzling light – or attack. At least he includes the first movement repeat with its delicious, woodwind-dominated lead-back passage. The middle movements are unremarkable but the tarantella finale compensates for the foregoing lethargy.
The Scottish is more suited to Brüggen’s spirit. The first movement is appropriately ruminative and creates a brooding, mist-shrouded landscape with prominent swirling woodwind and strings, more pondered than ponderous, you might say. Brüggen integrates the coda more convincingly than usual but I found the late entry of the clarinet in the ‘highland fling’ scherzo grated on repetition. Brüggen and his forces are at their best in the Scottish symphony’s Adagio, where both the orchestral colours and textures perfectly capture the atmosphere. I’d still opt for Klemperer in both works.