1 DVD - 8 14337 01905 1 - (p) 2014

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)




Symphony No. 5 in B flat (1875-1876) 67' 43"
Leopold Nowak 1951, 3rd revised edition 2005




- I Satz: Adagio - Allegro
20' 15"
- II Satz: Adagio. Sehr langsam 12' 30"
- III Satz: Scherzo. Molto vivace - Trio. Im gleichen Tempo 13' 04"
- IV Satz: Finale. Adagio - Allegro moderato 21' 54"



 
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt
 
Luogo e data di registrazione
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (Olanda) - 25 & 27 ottobre 2013
Registrazione live / studio
live
Producer / Engineer
Everett Porter
Edizione DVD
RCO Live - 8 14337 01905 1 - (1 dvd) - 68' 00" - (p) 2014

Notes
Anton Bruckner wrote his Symphony No. 5 in B flat major while employed as a lecturer in harmony and counterpoint at the University of Vienna, where his students included the young Gustav Mahler. Bruckner completed the first draft of the score between February and May 1876, then put it to one side to revise his Third Symphony and make corrections to the First. In 1877, he set to work correcting the Finale, revising the first movement - Adagio-Allegro - and arranging the Adagio; by January, he had reworked the entire score. While the compositional process of the Fifth was rather spread out over time, the actual creative process went relatively smoothly - at least by Bruckner's standards. The work would, however, remain unperformed for another sixteen years, until his champion Franz Schalk conducted it in Graz in 1894. Although the performance took place while Bruckner was still alive, the composer, by then gravely ill, was unable to attend. Schalk had convinced Bruckner of the need to make a great number of cuts and changes to the instrumentation, to which Bruckner, as insecure as ever, consented, yet only on the express condition that the original version be preserved for posterity. Accordingly, the kritische Gesamtausgabe presents the symphony in its original form.
The first performance was a major success - witness Schalk's report: "Most honoured Master! No doubt you have already had word of the tremendous impact made by your great and glorious Fifth. I can only add that for the rest of my life I shall always remember that evening as one of the greatest experiences I ever shared in. Profoundly moved, I felt as if I were being transported into the realms of eternal greatness. No one who was not there to hear it can have any idea of the overwhelming power of the Finale. Allow me, my most honoured Master, to lay at your feet my offering of the most sincere admiration, and to acclaim the composer of this glorious work. In profound gratitude, always your devoted Francisce."
The Fifth Symphony has acquired a number of nicknames: it has been called the "Pizzicato" symphony owing to the frequent use of this technique throughout the work, heard straight away in the opening bars in the cellos and double basses; the "Church of Faith" symphony because of its chorale sections; the "Fantastic", as the composer himself called it - he also referred to the work as "my contrapuntal masterpiece"; and "Tragic" as Bruckner's biographer August Gllerich named it because of the tragedy of a genius misunderstood by the world around him.
The Fifth is the only one of Bruckner's symphonies to open with an Adagio introduction. Barely audible, a plucked ostinato motif is sounded in the lower strings, like the tentative footsteps of someone who, full of reverence, enters a sacred space, moving out of the darkness seeking light. Melodic, chromatic lines in the violas, first and second violins, and bassoons evoke an expectant excitement, which is interrupted by a unison tutti fanfare, after which the winds introduce a chorale motif. Keeping with the religious imagery, one could say that we have now entered the "holy of holies". After a general pause, a scaled-down version of the bass motif of the chorale is heard first in the strings, then in the winds. With this new theme, in both its original and its inverted form, a climax builds, culminating in the dazzling return of the chorale, now heard in the entire orchestra, as a conclusion to the Adagio. This Adagio introduction is, in relation to the symphony as a whole (which lasts over eighty minutes), as short as it is important: in fact, it contains the germ of all the material making up the work. A tremolo marks the opening of the Allegro, in which the principal theme, wavering between major and minor, is also derived from the foregoing. The ingenuity with which Bruckner proceeds to use complete motifs and fragments as the building blocks of an imposing polyphonic structure leads one to suspect, even in the first movement, that his own characterisation of the Fifth Symphony as a "contrapuntal masterpiece" is entirely justified.
In the second movement, an Adagio in D minor, a noble melancholy, perfectly portrayed by the sorrowful melody in 4/4 time heard in the oboe, initially dominates and is made all the more poignant by the tension created by the pizzicato accompaniment in 6/4 time. Tentatively at first, then with more and more conviction, hope glimmers until the sun comes shining through.
The Scherzo draws on musical ideas in the Adagio, recasting them ironically. Not only is the key the same, but so is the material used: the gesture in the strings with which the preceding movement started pizzicato in 6/4 time, now bowed and in 3/4 time, here serves as the accompaniment to a happy, dancing principal theme. Bruckner adheres strictly to sonata form in this movement.
As a Baroque cathedral is topped by a dome, so is the Fifth Symphony crowned by the Finale. The result is a true monument to formal unity. Thematic material from the first movement is evoked once again; through this are heard a number of descending octave leaps in the trumpets, out of which the Finale theme grows, very recognisable thanks to its dotted rhythm. A second theme in D f1at major leads to a gossamer, melodious polyphonic web. A third theme makes a stormy entrance as the Finale theme itself barging in through a descending octave leap. The exposition is concluded by a solemn chorale in the brass. In an imposing double fugue, all the strands then come together. Any possible last doubts are dispelled by the final hammering tonic chords: the seeking soul has found the light.
Frits Vliegenthart

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, honorary guest conductor
Having founded Concentus Musicus Wien together with his wife, violinist Alice Harnoncourt, in 1953, Nikolaus Harnoncourt revolutionised Baroque historical performance practice. He first appeared with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1975. His interpretations have contributed greatly to the performance tradition of Bach's St Matthew and St John Passions. Later, he led a number of spectacular opera productions in Amsterdam, including Mozart's Da Ponte operas. Over the years, he steadily expanded his repertoire of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to include Schumann, Brahms, Dvořk, Smetana, Bruckner and even such composers as Berg and Gershwin. He was appointed honorary guest conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in October 2000. Harnoncourt has conducted opera performances at the renowned opera houses of Milan, Zurich and Vienna. He also makes guest appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. In addition, he has taught at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Many of the recordings he has made with the Concertgebouw Orchestra have won awards. Harnoncourt received the Erasmus Prize in 1980 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 1987. Other honours include the prestigious Polar Music Prize, the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize and the Kyoto Prize. Harnoncourt was made a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands in December 2006 for his contribution to Dutch musical life in general and to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in particular. With the performance heard on this DVD, Harnoncourt bid farewell to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra after a collaboration spanning thirty-eight years and 276 concerts.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra was founded in 1888 and grew into a world renowned ensemble under the leadership of conductor Willem Mengelberg. Links were also forged at the beginning of the 20th century with composers such as Mahler, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Schnberg and Hindemith, several of these conducting their own compositions with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Eduard van Beinum took over the leadership of the orchestra from Mengelberg in 1945 and introduced the orchestra to his passion for Bruckner and the French repertoire. Bernard Haitink first shared the leadership of the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Eugen Jochum for several years and then took sole control in 1963. Haitink was named conductor laureate in 1999; he had continued the orchestra's musical traditions and had set his own mark on the orchestra with his highly-praised performances of Mahler, Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Ravel and Brahms. Haitink alsobrought about an enormous increase in the number of gramophone recordings made and foreign tours undertaken by the orchestra.
Riccardo Chailly succeeded Haitink in 1988; under his leadership the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra confirmed its primary position in the music world and continued to develop, gaining under him international fame for its performances of 20th century music as well as giving memorable performances of Italian operas. Under Chailly the orchestra made many extremely successful appearances at the most important European festivals such as the Internationale Festwochen Luzern, the Salzburger Festspiele and the London Proms, as well as performing in the United States, Japan and China. Riccardo Chailly was succeeded by Mariss lansons in September 2004.
The orchestra was named the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix on the occasion of
the orchestra's hundredth anniversary on 3 November1988
.
Translation: Josh Dillon

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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