Benjamin Zander has a reputation for coming up with radical interpretations of key works and this well-honed Bruckner Fifth is no exception. I have to confess a soft spot for this massive symphony having being weaned on the unashamedly romantic (and hugely cut) version with Hans Knappertsbusch at the helm as well as the seminal Philharmonia Klemperer recording so it was good to discover this fine interpretation which in a way harks back to those greats.
Zander takes a mellifluous approach to the First Movement and he lets the music and main themes develop with fine momentum avoiding the stodginess of some more famous versions. The Adagio also moves along quite nicely and here I was reminded of Klemperer's 1969 recording which also has a relatively short Adagio. The Scherzo is also very fast and this suits the music especially the lovely Trio.
The Finale is radically different to other version where it lasts only 21 minutes but Zander truly is inspiring in pushing the music forward and thus gaining from the fast speeds which never allows attention to flag which is what unfortunately happens in Klemperer's version. Telarc's recording is also of the top drawer variety with some stunning climaxes and startling attention to detail. The package also includes an 80 minute talk by Zander on a second CD which is really a revelation and raises the stakes of this underrated symphony no end. Bruckner enthusiasts should snap this fine recording up without delay.
Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech