Review by akiralx October 16, 2004 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
|I first listened to this hybrid disc in my car (not ideal I know), and my first impressions from the CD layer were that the first two movements didn't quite engage with me in the way that Bruckner almost always does - and I thought it was perhaps that this fine Japanese orchestra hadn't quite identified the Bruckner string sound, while the brass and woodwind had nailed it bang-on as the last two movements demonstrate, with terrifically powerful brass chording in the scherzo and finale, with the wind soloists playing like seraphs.
Also this is Ozawa's first ever Bruckner on record, and maybe he hadn't quite grasped the idiom (although he conducts this music often with the VPO and other orchestras)
Still the opening Allegro and the Adagio are really what separate the men from the boys in Bruckner 7 and I had found the string playing immaculate but lacking a touch of eloquence - but having listened to the entire work again in multi-channel SACD, I have revised my opinion. Maybe it's the extra warmth that SACD brings but now the entire work sounds like it should.
Perhaps Karajan and the VPO (CD only) bring more tragic grandeur to the huge brass outbursts at about 10'30 in the opening Allegro and in the slow movement, but Ozawa and his orchestra play superbly well in this live recording from September 2003.
The only slight moment of unsteadiness I heard is at 3'03 in the Adagio - and what about that thrilling surge of bass power at 10'00 in the same movement -wonderful! I prefer this reading of the scherzo to just about any I have heard. The finale can often be a kind of afterthought but here, at a sensibly briskish tempo it sounds like a true conclusion.
Sonically this is a pretty good Bruckner sound, if slightly restrained. I have orchestral SACDs which have a more 'present' sound, but I suspect the engineers were aiming for this slightly recessed quality - or maybe it is a feature of the hall.
All in all though some will want a more present and vivid sound in this type of music. Harnoncourt's SACDs of Bruckner's Ninth and Fifth really do have more presence than this release.
Comparing Ozawa with other digital recordings, I would place this interpretation below Karajan's excellent last recording with the VPO on DG, but above Harnoncourt's VPO and Wand's BPO CDs (the latter sadly not as fine as his BPO Fourth).
Multi-channel SACD of fine Bruckner is so uncommon that I would recommend this release, despite the slight caveat about the sound.
Was this review helpful to you?