- Symphony No. 4 in E flat ("Romantic"), WAB 104 (various versions)
Klaus Tennstedt's 1989 concert recording of Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, Romantic," represents the conductor's work with the London Philharmonic Orchestra following his tenure as its music director, yet it is as rich and satisfying as any of his previous efforts with this group, and it is a remarkable emeritus achievement. Despite the infirmities and insecurities that led Tennstedt to resign his position in 1987, on this recording he is firmly in charge of the ensemble and fully attentive to details in the score -- no mean feat in this long work, which has often been criticized for being rambling, repetitive, boring, and unfocused. Tennstedt's concentration is sharp, and he brings out features in the music that are essential to making sense of it, and all the while he controls it with a broad but firm pacing that suits the work's expansive scale and grandiose sweep. Furthermore, this is a big-hearted rendition with lush string textures, delicate woodwind sonorities, and gloriously resonant brass, especially in Bruckner's towering climaxes, and the LPO sounds fantastic in the vibrant acoustics of London's Royal Festival Hall. However, because this is a live recording, there are some inconsistencies of audio quality, and some of the softest passages -- the opening tremolo, for example, and the spare string accompaniment of the Andante -- are practically inaudible without cranking up the volume. Still, considering the depth of musical expression and the sheer excellence of performance this disc provides, the small sound losses and occasional audience noises are easy to excuse, and this CD is a worthwhile addition to any Brucknerian's collection.