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  Oehms Classics -
  OC 614
  Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 - Young
  Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 (William Carragan 2005)

Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Simone Young (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 7 show all

Reviews: 3

Site review by akiralx May 23, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
The edition’s the thing here, at least it was the main attraction for me. If this had been of the 1877 text, I’m not sure I would have bought it. The score has been prepared by William Carragan, who is rewarded by having his name misspelled as Carrigan on the box cover.

This SACD is one of only three recordings of the original 1872 text, which is fuller and has the inner movements reversed. But the only real significant change is that the Finale (superbly done here) is now much longer. The other two recordings of this version are by Eichorn and Tintner (whose Naxos recording bizarrely is identical in timing to this one).

The performance is a good one, as is the recording – though some listeners may find the balance a tad close. Presumably the engineers were trying to eliminate audience noise by placing the microphones slighly closer than they otherwise might have done. This isn’t a sonic demonstration disc by any means, but it will please most Brucknerians.

Orchestral playing is very fine throughout, and the performance grows in stature as it proceeds, doubtless owing to its live origins.

One thing Simone Young gets pretty much right in her handling of the first movement is the coda, which in other hands can be tacked on as a furious non sequitur (e.g. Jochum on EMI). Here she is almost as persuasive as Wakasugi and others in their fine readings of the 1877 text,

I’m not sure I really like having the Scherzo placed second, the slow movement seems to fit more naturally here (more of that below). One slight caveat I might offer is that compared to other recordings I mention later, I found the playing of the Scherzo a little beefy. None of the lithe intensity of the finest versions – I’m all for rusticity, but isn’t the playing slightly too loud here? One textual thing is that the closing page has a bar snipped out right at the end which brings the listener up with rather a jolt, compared to the 1877 edition.

The Andante in this version becomes an Adagio. Those of us who know and love this symphony may not be entirely convinced by hearing familiar music played, well, just slower. At first I thought the opening pages glacially slow, but that reservation evaporated on subsequent hearings. It’s beautifully done – and so nice to hear it without the cuts that disfigure some of the 1877 recordings. But I think it’s significant that the music is at its most convincing in the latter stages – where Young has chosen a tempo that’s more or less ‘normal’. The oscillating solo at the end (after the violin solo) is here given to the horn rather than clarinet - an effect which is very pleasing, though it's harder to play being in the higher range. Quite an evocative effect, maybe an enterprising conductor could have it played offstage?

The Finale is superbly done, though some may be disconcerted by the alarmingly hectic tempo Young adopts for the opening pages – no recording I’ve heard comes close to this. But it works really well, and the playing is excitingly robust throughout this long close to the work.

I’m going to boost the rating half a star for the Finale as it really does carry the performance to a great conclusion, and perhaps make me forget the very slight reservations I might have had over small details elsewhere.

For those who may be interested in comparing this fine SACD to the 1877 version, which I have to say I don’t find in any way inferior, I append a guide to some of the more easily obtainable recordings in chronological order of recording, on RBCD only of course.

I don’t want to get bogged down too much on different editions – the Nowak or Haas versions of the 1877 aren’t too different from each other.

For more details see:

Concertgebouw O/Haitink/Philips

From his 1960s cycle, now only available in a boxset – this has never been reissued separately on CD to my knowledge. Not dissimilar to Giulini’s (with the same snippets missing from the slow movement), though rather straighter as you might expect – but in no way dull. In fact Haitink perhaps whips up more drama in the opening pages of the finale. At this stage the orchestra had a slightly lean, Francophone timbre, though the sound is full and vivid. Perhaps not as imaginative or distinctive as other versions by Giulini, Stein, Karajan and Wakasugi, but this is still a satisfying performance.

Vienna PO/Stein/Decca

Now reissued on Eloquence this recording doesn’t seem too widely distributed, at least in Europe (I got mine from an Australian dealer).

This excellent version (like Stein’s Sixth) is one of the finest ever recorded. Given a vintage Sofiensaal recording and great VPO playing, it is full of imaginative touches. He plays the coda of the first movement rather quickly (though not as hectically as Jochum) which sounds to me rather ‘tacked on’ instead of stemming from what has gone before. The slow movement is superbly done, with many of the normal cuts opened out.

Tempi are ideal throughout, though Stein does try some fluctuations in the Finale which don’t work quite as well as a steady pulse, to my ears at least. Perhaps the Schubertian flavour means that the finale doesn’t surge forward with the weight of sound that conductors like Haitink, Chailly and Wakasugi bring to it, but that is only a minor observation as there is plenty of sweep and power in this performance. Any lover of Bruckner should have this great disc.

Vienna SO/Giulini/Testament

A famous recording from 1974 which deserves its high reputation. Fine playing and recording, nothing too individual in the interpretation, just a satisfying and often fiery performance. You can tell that an experienced and fine conductor is at work, though I don’t find the performance as imaginative as Stein’s. The only snags really are the slight excisions from the Andante. If you don’t know the work you probably wouldn’t notice but if you’ve heard fuller versions like Wakasugi’s they are an annoyance. Not a top choice but very good.

Staatskapelle Dresden/Jochum/EMI

I’ve got this in its EMI forte reissue from his second cycle. I culled his earlier DG cycle years ago (maybe rather rashly) but I can’t remember the Second from that set. I’ve read that these EMI reissues sound better than the old boxset – though whether they are superior to the reissued boxset I can’t say.

The box of this new twofer quotes a Gramophone review which highlights the Schubertian feel of the performance – maybe in places, though I would say Stein’s recording has rather more of that influence, and is frankly in a different class.

Performance–wise, this is one of Jochum’s better Bruckner readings, which can vary wildly. Here the blaring brass and excitable tempi (which sadly afflict the Fourth on the set’s other disc) are usually avoided, and the atmospheric but clear 1980 recording is very good, as one would expect from the Lukaskirche.

Jochum favours fastish tempi especially in the finale, though the Andante does not suffer, and is pleasingly played (though with the usual cuts). I’m not sure whether the hectic codas of the first and last movement are Jochum’s intrepretative ideas or textual variants – I suspect the former, but whichever, they don’t work for me. This is worth obtaining for devoteess of this work or Jochum, but is not one of the top choices.

Cologne RSO/Wand/RCA

Wand only recorded this symphony once. I was amazed how lacklustre this performance is. The interpretation is decent enough but doesn’t linger in the memory, and the playing is surprisingly slack, with scrappy string playing standing out. Better than Eschenbach (they both play the Haas) but this is one Wand Bruckner performance that disappoints.


You’ll now struggle to get this apart from in the boxset, though Arkivmusik produce a facsimile of it. The recording is now over 25 years old, so various reviews have mentioned ‘early digital edge’ on the violins, and so on. I have to say, I don’t really hear that, though the recording is quite close. It sounds pretty fine, vivid with good detail, though without the atmosphere of the earlier analogue recordings in the cycle.

It was of course one of the Bruckner symphonies which Karajan didn’t conduct in concert, but unlike at least one of them (the Sixth) it does not sound like it was recorded at a sight-reading session. On the contrary, the performance is very fine, intense but occasionally with a slight Schubertian air to it, perhaps owing to the transparency of the close recording.

The Andante is played serenely, though some may find it a touch urbane compared to Stein’s recording. Karajan takes the Scherzo at a fair clip, though conversely is initially perhaps a fraction slow in the Finale, though he makes it work with subtle tempi changes and energetic rhythms. One of the better versions though not the best.

Concertgebouw O/Chailly/Decca

A powerful and weighty reading, superbly played and recorded. The Concertgebouw really play this at full throttle, so climaxes are mountainous, though never bombastic as could happen occasionally with Jochum. Any Schubertian influences are non-existent – indeed some might feel that this recording’s only flaw is that it is too weighty and, if not sombre, certainly serious. But if you want a performance which links the work to the later symphonies this is a plausible choice.

The version played is given complete, so one can enjoy the absence of cuts. Like Karajan's recording, the Scherzo is played quite quickly while the tempo for the Finale might strike some as on the slow side of ideal. Not a first choice I think, but a compelling experience. I suspect the single CD is deleted so the boxset would be a prospective buyer’s port of call.

Saarbrucken Radio SO/Wakasugi/Arte Nova

Not household names (though the orchestra is quite well known from broadcasts) but in fact this 1992 recording is the finest version I’ve heard of the 1877 version (Nowak). The slow movement is played without cuts - although the Bruckner discography lists this as the same version of the work as Giulini and Haitink, the slow movement here definitely includes passages that they lack. This alone would propel it to the front rank even if the performance wasn’t excellent – which it is.

The fine orchestra plays superbly and with an appealing sense of discovery. The scale of the performance seems more idiomatic than Chailly’s massive version, and Wakasugi’s interpretation is full of stylish touches, with ideal tempi throughout. The Andante is played more beautifully than on just about any other recording, helped by the refined but vivid recording which is perhaps the best this symphony has received on CD, alongside Chailly.

The Scherzo is played slightly slower than Karajan or Chailly which sounds perfect to me. Similarly, the finale starts superbly with great energy which is maintained to the end. At budget price this is indispensible, though the difficulty now may be in finding it.

Houston SO/Eschenbach/Koch

I picked this CD up cheaply on eBay, and I’m glad I did – cheaply that is, as this won’t do at all. A live recording with rather distant sound, and a drab interpretation. The playing is fine enough but this lugubrious performance just doesn’t engage. And why has the slow movement been designated Adagio? I can only assume that has been done to explain away the turgid reading. The finale also seems to go on forever.

Berlin PO/Barenboim/Teldec

I wish DG would reissue Barenboim’s Chicago set, but the later one does have good performances in it, especially the Ninth which is perhaps my favourite for that work. You can pick up this Second on Elatus separately – but I wouldn’t bother as it doesn’t engage on any level and is capped by an account of the finale which is played at a bizarrely lumbering tempo without any of the necessary impetus.

Review by fafnir March 1, 2007 (12 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is a tranfer from the discussion to the review area now that it is available.

As is well-known, Bruckner revised many of his symphonies several times, some very significantly. This have caused numerous debates as to which version represents Bruckner's true wishes as well as which is the "best" version, regardless of his wishes. These debates are, for the most part, unresolvable. Fortunately, the earliest versions of some of his symphonies are now available on excellent recordings so that Bruckner enthusiasts are able to make a comparison and form their own opinion.

Ms. Young's recording is of the Carragan 2005 edition of Bruckner's original version. It differs from the more commonly played Nowak edition in several major respects.

The order of the second and third movement is reversed. The slow movement is now placed third. Further, the movement is now designated "adagio" rather than "andante." The slight slowing of tempo is very noticeable and enhances the solemn aspect of the movement.

About 100 bars of additional music are included in the finale, including a significantly prolonged coda.

All nine of Bruckner's "great pauses" are observed. As a result, the quotations from the "Great" Mass in F minor are set in relief.

There are numerous other changes and small cuts are restored. In all, the playing length is increased by about ten minutes to 71 minutes.

IMO the net effect of all of this is to improve the flow of the music and add to its enjoyment. I prefer it by a significant margin to the traditional Nowak edition. If you are new to Bruckner's music, this recording would make an ideal introduction. The themes are gorgeous and beautifully developed; all you must do is relax and listen with an open mind. Of course, if you hate Bruckner, as many do for reasons I cannot comprehend, the increased length just prolongs the agony.

Ms. Young obviously loves this score and is able to fulfill it with a fine live performance from the Hamburg Philharmonic. The audience is very quiet and there is no applause. She has apparently embarked on a series of recordings with this orchestra of the original versions of Symphonies 1-4 and 8. The prospect tantalizes. Now, if she would only also record the Ninth Symphony with the revised Cohr's Finale!

The mch recording from Polyhymnia is very fine and captures the ambiance from an excellent perspective in the hall.

This recording is recommended for all but those who are turned off by Bruckner. Perhaps even those should give it a try.

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Review by drdanfee August 12, 2007 (9 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Simone Young’s Bruckner 2 in Hamburg: Vital, Bracing – A Winner

In many instances, we lament the bad effects of globalization as everything gets mixed up while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tired of trying to get global Fortune Five Hundred technical assistance from a help desk in another country where the long hot sun of language and culture barriers seems to have dried up every last drop of effective and knowing customer service? Sometimes I think the person screaming down the hall is blowing apart from having to hear repeated technical service scripts that are a lot like those software pop-up help windows that just keep recycling all the obvious problems – which clearly by now you probably do NOT have - while you begin to wonder if some gremlin from last night’s horror movie has come to live on your very own desktop.

In this instance, though, globalization has brought us something noteworthy and laudable, Simone Young conducting the Hamburg Philharmonic in the Bruckner Second Symphony. Original version, 1872, as edited by David Carrigan for the Nowak series.

Let’s deal with the orchestra right away.

The last time I heard the Hamburg Philharmonic on disc was, I believe, an old recording of Brahm’s First Symphony that Charles Mackerras – now Sir Charles – had led in Hamburg. (Vinyl, you see. Those flat plastic platters with groove thangs.) It had lots of drive and energy and gesture, but alas, lacked finesse in a Jack Sprat sort of way. Just when you needed something to be deft and lean, it would sound too fat and unfocused. Just when you wanted something to be rich and detailed, it would go too thin. The overall musical points were made, but playing was too sloppy, too regional-band.

Then, of course, Gunter Wand went to Hamburg to conduct and build up the NDR, among other things. Presumably Mackerras and other leaders also helped build up music in Hamburg.

Suffice it to say, that, judging from this super audio multi-channel disc, Hamburg has arrived in the annals of modern recordings. Rather like the Munich Philharmonic after the likes of Celibidache and Levine. The orchestra is fully present, all departments accounted for quite well. The strings do not go thin just when the music, particularly in Bruckner, needs to reach high in a climax, or drop to softness without losing the listener. The brass are not wobbly or faint of heart, and yield plenty of sheen and blend and finesse. The woodwinds are silvery or reedy as needed, and we hear no lack of rapt solo playing in this or that passage.

This is good news – for Hamburg of course, and for the rest of us.

Ms. Young arrives in Hamburg, having started in Australia, then stopped off briefly in Bergen, Norway, on her travels. All along the path, she has built a sterling musical reputation, sometimes obscured by her willingness to challenge the financial and institutional powers that be if she thinks her musical organization can do better with better support and leadership.
Given how dearly the Germans hold their cultural institutions, including their musical ones, one imagines that finally Ms. Young has arrived at the right place at the right moment. She is flourishing, indeed, as this recording demonstrates.

What about her Bruckner? What about her Bruckner Second Symphony, original 1872 version?

Good news, all around. She has plenty of drive, impact, and energy. Think a fine woman athlete, more or less at the top of her considerable form. Her Bruckner has nothing diminished or diminutive about its musical manners or its musical substance. Her phrasing is alert, deft, vital and capable of inflection across the long, deep musical breaths that Bruckner so often takes in his own special sort of musical narrative. Ms. Young’s leadership has great, great patience without losing an iota of drive and forward motion. You never feel she is rushing to get to a big, Brucknerian moment at the expense of the Bruckner journey that is the destination.

Her slow movement, Adagio, is fiery, and entirely lovely. It, too, manages to keep moving despite having slowed its tempo, and a listener knows that we are heading for the varied and difficult Finale.

All of these pitfalls are amplified by the recourse here to the original version of 1872. Later versions were shortened, focused differently, and are still being played. Hybrid versions which mix the various editions Bruckner either made or sanctioned exist, and these are played, too. The performance attitude, particularly with the second symphony, seems to be that we are not bound to choose only the version in which Bruckner started out – any more than we are beholden to, say, Beethoven’s sketch books. This loose pass at the symphony’s beginnings is probably further amplified by the fact that this is an early work, and most people presume that Bruckner was still finding his feet after long years of study when he forbid himself to much compose.

What Ms. Young and the Hamburg band show us, however, is that all these presuppositions are probably wrong, if not also pretty wrong –headed. This first version of the second symphony is NOT in any way, actually, the sound of Anton Bruckner halfway to really being himself in the later – and often presumed much greater – symphonies. Its poetry compels. What sounds loose and meandering in other performances, here becomes a vivid part of the rich whole. The composer as famed organ virtuoso, renowned for his improvisations, also communicates all sorts of good and interesting things.

A second symphony right up at the top, then. Next to the rather different version of 1877, led by Giulini with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on Testament. Next to the two Kurt Eichhorn readings with the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz.

More good news? This is the first release in a projected complete symphony cycle under Simone Young with Hamburg. Oh yes.

Highly recommended, for performance, and – did I forget? – for multi-channel SACD sound that helps recreate the Laeiszhalle Hamburg, right in your listening room. Oh so yummy.

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Works: 1  

Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 2 in C minor, WAB 102