Victor Carr Jr.
, December 2004
"With this new release the Naxos catalog now includes all extant versions of Bruckner's much massaged Symphony No. 3. Georg Tintner's imposing account of the 1873 original made a powerful and seemingly irrefutable case for Bruckner's first thoughts. But Johannes Wildner is equally persuasive in his compelling rendition of the second version from 1877. Here Bruckner tamed the sometimes discursive quality of his original inspiration, giving it a tighter and more or less conventional structure--at least as defined by Brucknerian standards. Though this came at a sacrifice of some of the music's more radical passages, the symphony remains a powerful and affecting work.
Wildner's conviction is immediately apparent in the first movement: Listen as he builds the opening's two great climaxes with arresting force, then infuses the following lyrical second subject with an ingratiating warmth. Fine as the first movement is, it's actually the Adagio and Finale that benefit most from Wildner's probing conducting, as both movements sound with a rare formal coherence married to dramatic impact. As a bonus, the first disc of this double set also includes the composer's intermediate version (1876) of the Adagio.
Bruckner's 1889 revision of the symphony is controversial for its sometimes ungainly melding of his early and late styles, as well as for the cuts--reportedly influenced by Franz Schalk--that gouge out large portions of the finale. However, Wildner miraculously smooths out the symphony's rough edges by adopting swift tempos (the first movement now has lost nearly four minutes), streamlined phrasing, and light textures; he also imparts an early-romantic, almost Mendelssohnian feel that makes this last version sound paradoxically like the earliest, contemporaneous with the Second Symphony.
The Westphalia New Philharmonic members perform with the same enthusiasm and expertise they displayed in their recording of the Ninth Symphony (type Q7058 in Search Reviews). And though the strings still don't match the richness of their world-class competition, the brass project more boldly and surely than before, and the orchestra as a whole cultivates an authentic yet distinctive Bruckner sound. Naxos' recording offers impressive clarity and dynamic range, though the dry hall acoustic doesn't provide much warmth. No matter--the heat generated by Wildner and his players more than compensates."