Bruckner Orchestra Linz at Symphony Hall by Norman Stinchcombe

There’s a lovely description of Bruckner in an old edition of The Oxford Companion to Music as “half Caesar and half village schoolmaster”. It seemed very apt when listening to his eighth symphony with its combination of massive power and grandeur plus idylls of serenity and simplicity. Ensuring that the disparate elements cohere over the symphony’s eighty minute timespan, and don’t become a series of glorious moments interspersed with routine sawing and blowing, is demanding for players and conductor.
Markus Poschner and the orchestra (the clue’s in the name) clearly know their stuff and this was a gripping performance both in moments of inwardness and intimacy – the solo oboe’s lonely cry in the opening movement – and when Bruckner (as Caesar) lets loose his orchestral legions as the finale bursts forth. Watching that mighty musical onslaught reminded me what an important role the timpanist has in driving that movement along – and the Linz orchestra’s man was superb.
Poschner divided his violins left and right which was effective both in Bruckner and Mozart’s Haffner Symphony where at one point the seconds have the melody while the firsts gently tick-tock their accompaniment and in the presto finale where motifs were tossed and batted about from section to section to amusing effect. In the trio of the Menuetto Poschner used a great deal of rubato, holding back the beat in the way the Vienna Philharmonic do for Johann Strauss. Was this an historical performance discovery, a Linz tradition or just a bit of fun?
Norman Stinchcombe

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