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by Seth Colter Walls

September 27, 2013

Marek Janowski's Bruckner Cycle

by Seth Colter Walls  |  September 27, 2013

Classical fans are occasionally like baseball fans, at least the ones who say "call me in the sixth inning if the pitcher still has a no-hitter going." In this analogy, the elusive achievement for a conductor (and orchestra) is a complete "cycle" of a composer's symphonic catalog. Classical fans grade hard and have incalculable numbers of reasons for preferring one performance of a symphony over the next, so it's hard to pull off a whole series that feels like a triumph. Recent symphonic cycles of note include Minnesota's Beethoven series, under the baton of Osmo Vanska.

That particular orchestra's current cycle of Sibelius symphonies may well be waylaid by the organization's financial woes. (Here's hoping not.) But there's good news in another part of the world, with L'Orchestra de la Suisse Romande's nearly complete cycle of symphonies by Anton Bruckner. As conducted by Marek Janowski, since 2008, the series has shown his preference for swift tempos and clarity. Some conductors tend to indulge themselves in Bruckner's powerful shifts of mood and dynamics, leading to interpretive wonders (and also excess). But Janowski seems content to just play what's on the page. It's a reading that will be debated for some time, and since the last recording cycle is due to come before the end of 2013, it's time for more classical fans to tune in.

We've sequenced the symphonies in the order they were written (we'll add Janowski's last item, the Fourth, to this playlist, when it becomes available). From the relatively concise and energetic First Symphony to the broad canvasses of the late works, the Janowski approach to Bruckner offers consistent interest, even if they don't all become your personal favorites.

Tracks 1-4: Symphony No. 1
Tracks 5-8: Symphony No. 2
Tracks 9-12: Symphony No. 3
Tracks 13-16: Symphony No. 5
Tracks 17-20: Symphony No. 6
Tracks 21-24: Symphony No. 7
Tracks 25-28: Symphony No. 8

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