Eugen Jochum might have been the finest Bruckner conductor of his age. Devoutly Catholic and somewhat of a bumpkin himself (the "Originals" features a delightful story of engineers trying to get him and his wife to place speakers where they might actual hear music), he was perhaps more like Bruckner than other specialists of his day. Well, expect for the "being successful" part. This is a really important set if you love the composer, and maybe even if you don't. With all of the major choral works with orchestra, and nearly all the motets and hymns, any fan of sacred music should appreciate this very reasonably priced box.
I don't know many major conductors who took time to also direct the chorus unaccompanied, but Jochum did, and we should be thankful. As an organist and devout Catholic himself, Jochum understood both the spirituality and structure of this music. Obviously, there's absolutely no claim on this music from the faithful of the Church – in fact, there are some that could hardly be worse – but in music like this, it helps to believe in something. "Something" could very well be the music, and not the message. Religion aside, Bruckner has few disciples and even fewer champions. Wand was one, and Jochum was another. But while Wand has an endless supply of live concerts, DVDs, and final thoughts, Jochum is chiefly remembered for his two symphony cycles, and this set. Jochum's recordings of the symphonies show a consistency of approach and purpose that most artists would envy. So it proves for these motets, especially. Each is full of spirit, character, and the singing is mostly very good.
Copyright © 2016, Brian Wigman