Saturday, March 2, 2024

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

Has this happened before, that Bruckner’s two unnumbered Symphonies, often not recognised as being part of his symphonic canon, are paired in a concert (either of them would be news, both is a headline maker)? This was the third time this week for the Berliner Philharmoniker and Christian Thielemann, but prior, anywhere?

Maybe Bruckner felt there were too many influences in his F-minor debut Symphony but he didn’t destroy it or announce it should not be played. Only rarely are Brucknerian traits evident during the four movements, yet it’s an attractive work – the first movement being classically concise (with exposition repeat, observed here), the slow one pastoral with beguiling woodwind figuration, then a perky/muscular Scherzo, although the Trio lacks for engagement, and the Finale moves purposefully to an energetic and exciting conclusion.

The D-minor Symphony followed the Symphony that Bruckner had already felt able to tag as his First. What Bruckner nominated as “Die Nullte” rather than No.2 is also likeable and more individual to its composer – with a possible narrative running behind the notes, or so it seemed with Thielemann siphoning as much expression as possible from the first movement – given space and direction – then declaring the beauties of the slow one, riposting it stormily in the Scherzo (the Trio is another weak link) and ultimately shaping the Finale, with its Schubert references, to be sure of itself, journeying to a clear-cut conclusion.

Having included these two Symphonies as part of his Vienna Philharmonic Bruckner cycle for Sony Classical,, it’s good that Thielemann feels a close-enough association with “00” and “0” to give them concert-hall life – he conducted both from memory and the Berliners played superbly, antiphonal violins (with basses left-positioned) adding to the distinction of every effort being made to ensure these opuses really are by Anton Bruckner.