- Symphony No. 4 in E flat ("Romantic"), WAB 104
One of the most popular versions of Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, Romantic," is the 1879/80 version, edited by Leopold Nowak, which Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra perform on this hybrid SACD from Reference Recordings. Notwithstanding the inroads some conductors have made in promoting the original 1874 version, which in many ways is a quite different composition, other conductors, like Honeck, still find value in this familiar revision, which has always been in the repertoire and which, along with the "Seventh Symphony," has become Bruckner's most recognizable piece. Honeck gives this live performance a rather expansive interpretation, emphasizing the long sweep of melody and using a fair amount of rubato in his tempos to add dramatic shading, particularly by drawing out cadences for their full emotional effect. The orchestra is prepared for all of Honeck's gradations and nuances, and it is remarkably fluid in shifting from one mood to the next without seeming forced. Yet the most important aspect of this performance is the attention to tone colors, which Honeck clarifies and highlights with great delicacy, proving that in the right hands, Bruckner's writing for orchestra is astonishing. Of course, the super audio sound captures every aspect of the sound with fidelity, and the dynamic range is extremely wide, so listeners should be aware that the lowest volume levels might need some careful adjustments.