Bruckner symphony shows artistry of Cleveland Orchestra

September 25, 1994|By David Donovan | David Donovan,Special to The Sun

Bruckner, Symphony No. 8 in A major. Bach/Webern, Ricercare, performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor (London 436-153-2)

Dohnanyi continues to record the Bruckner symphonies, and this is another example of the beauty and power of the playing of the current Cleveland Orchestra. As he has done in his earlier Bruckner recordings, Dohnanyi, the Cleveland's music director, delivers a no-nonsense performance along classical lines. The conductor does best in the extroverted first, third and fourth movements. The slow movement, however, is too matter-of-fact for this taste. If one returns to the classic recordings by Otto Klemperer (EMI), Bernard Haitink (Philips), and Eugen Jochum (the earlier set on DG or the later one on EMI), one finds more profound music-making. Dohnanyi's reading is a fine-sounding recording of a great piece, but if you want a genuinely great musical experience, grab Klemperer's recording before it disappears into EMI oblivion.

Charles Ives' "Three Places in New England," "The Unanswered Question," Symphony No. 3, etc., performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (DG 439-869-2)

The conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is quickly cementing its position as one of the great chamber orchestras in recording history. With his poly rhythmic and highly dissonant style, Ives is a challenge for any ensemble, but the Orpheus masters these pieces with both conviction and skill. The two big works, the Symphony No. 3 and the "Three Places in New England" have had many recordings in the past, but these fine-sounding performances are as impressive as the versions conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas or Eugene Ormandy. The orchestral textures in the finale of the "Housatonic at Stockbrige" border on the magical. This collection is a splendid introduction to an authentic and enigmatic American genius.

Haydn Symphonies 26, 42-44, 48, 49, performed by the Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood, conductor (L'Oiseau-Lyre 440-222-2)

This is the sixth volume in a projected 15-volume cycle of the complete symphonies of Haydn, and the finest so far. The symphonies included date from the years 1768-1771, when Haydn transformed the symphony from a loosely organized divertimento designed for casual listening into the dramatic, concentrated and demanding musical form we know today.

These performances feature the kind of clear textures one hears only in the best authentic-instruments ensembles. The only complaint is that playing time rarely exceeds 60 minutes on each CD.

The pioneering set conducted by Antal Dorati with the Philharmonia Hungarica (now available at mid-price on the London label) may not be as pleasing to "authenticists" as Hogwood's, but it offers good performances with more more bang to the buck.

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