- Symphony No. 4 in E flat ("Romantic"), WAB 104
Decca's reissue of Karl Böhm's 1973 recording of Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, Romantic," is an essential item for collectors, even though the performing edition is one of the most commonly used. Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra follow the 1886 version (also known as the 1878-1880 version), edited by Leopold Nowak, which, in frequency of performances and number of recordings, is only rivaled by the somewhat similar edition by Robert Haas of the 1881 version. In a market where conductors and orchestras are increasingly vying to record Bruckner's earlier, and often more interesting, versions of this piece for the sake of giving a clearer picture of the composer's original intentions, Böhm's recording offers nothing new to the seeker of obscurities, and may even seem to be interchangeable with well over 100 other recordings that cover the same ground. But few conductors have the proper touch in Bruckner's symphonies, and even fewer could boast of the special relationship that Böhm had with these works, having conducted them for many decades when they were still not widely popular, and even recording the "Symphony No. 4" uncut in the era of 78 rpm records! Add to that Böhm's great affinity for the musicians of the VPO and their long involvement in playing this symphony, then it becomes apparent why this CD is an important item for anyone interested in Bruckner's music. The majestic pacing, the breadth of phrases, the clarity of parts, and the powerful emotional impact of this critically praised performance are all hard to match anywhere else, and Decca's extraordinary reproduction still sounds phenomenal in the ADD remastering, with a wide frequency range that captures the softest string tremolos as well as the loudest brass fanfares with absolute fidelity.