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Bruckner Symphony No. 3 (Jochum, Staatskapelle Dresden)

March 16, 2013


Anton Bruckner most likely believed that his third symphony would not be remembered for many years after his death for one main reason. The premiere of the work in Vienna, which Bruckner himself conducted, was an utter disaster. As the piece dragged on, the audience slowly left the hall. Eventually, the orchestra, equally displeased,  walked off the stage, leaving Bruckner alone with a few close friends. However, though the audience hated the work, it is not as bad as one might think. Granted, Bruckner’s third misses some of the uninterrupted smoothness of the second symphony, but is no less lyrical. In fact, the third is considered a rocky milestone on Bruckner’s path to musical proficiency. Eugen Jochum and Staatskapelle Dresden handle the difficult orchestral passages with ease, making this recording not half bad.

For a musician, the beginning of Bruckner’s Third must be quite scary. It is not technically demanding, but is not particularly melodic, and therefore does not sound quite normal. However, the Staatskapelle could be trusted to handle this challenge with poise and ease, and the passage is not only bearable, but beautiful. Indeed, the Dresden plays at its best throughout the whole movement. Though the first movement is well played, the second movement is the musical highlight. It is during this movement that one notices a hint of the thick, passionate Bruckner sound that the composer would implement in his later symphonies. The orchestra plays with weight and vibrato, but does not make the piece a slog. The same can be said for the boisterous third movement.

There is a certain empowering quality to Bruckner’s music; after listening to a symphony of his, this critic feels like getting up and impulsively shouting “Let’s go!” to nobody in particular. The fourth movement of the work is full of this characteristic, and Staatskapelle Dresden make it a fitting end to a marvelous work.

For a symphony that has received mixed reviews since it was composed, this is the best it will sound.

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