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Bruckner & Bach in Manchester

Bridgewater Hall, 31st March 2011










In their introductory conversation Markus Stenz and Stephen Johnson (L) shared their enthusiasm for Bruckner's Fifth with a pre-performance talk to the concert audience, and they agreed on the necessity of a suitably resonant acoustic for bringing it off and that Bridgewater Hall's is ideal.

Stenz, known to Londoners as Principal Conductor of the London Sinfonietta (1994-1998), confessed his trepidation in following after iconic Bruckner conductors, but he brought a wonderful conviction and balance to his interpretation, which for us was the culmination of a memorable musical break in Manchester, which took in student musicmaking at the RNCM (Barber's Vanessa).

Johnson's talk with Stenz had began with relevant music by Chetham's School trombonists, and we took in also a lunchtime concert given by confident juniors in the school's Baronial Hall. Amber Jordan, a flutist aged about twelve, was outstanding in her musicality.

Was Katherine Baker, who did the popular Bach 2nd Suite in the Bridgewater Hall concert, her teacher at Chetham's?

The latter, given with the Hallé on modern instruments, was unsuitable for the vast modern hall, of which Manchester is justly proud, and the flute was lost amongst the orchestra of a dozen in an account which was insufficiently articulated and owed little to today's historically informed performance practice.

What to couple with a big Bruckner symphony in a concert poses problems.

The best answer for next time may be found in my picture at the top? Fine organs in concert halls spend much of their lives frustratingly silent. One of J S Bach's major organ masterworks would have made a far more appropriate partner for Bruckner.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Bruckner 5 - Claudio Abbado/Lucerne Festival Orchestra

KKL Luzern: 19 August 2011 TT: 80:33 min


This is as spacious and profound a recording as you are ever likely to encounter. The acoustic of the KKL is perfect, with never an extraneous sound to disturb.

Recommended without reservation.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Sample it on YouTube

And read an interesting review from Lucerne: Abbado in Bruckner depth without weight

International Classical Music Award for Accentus: Abbado's Mahler 9 Music ACC 20214