NEW VOD: Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts Bruckner's Symphony No. 5

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

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Program notes

When the legendary Nikolaus Harnoncourt made his first appearance with the esteemed Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1975, he was already an established veteran of the classical scene, more than twenty years removed from the 1953 founding of Concentus Musicus Wien (an indispensable forerunner to the historically informed practice movement) with his wife Alice. Nearly four decades on, after having led the Dutch ensemble in Brucker’s Third and Fourth Symphonies in the 1990s, Harnoncourt returned to Amsterdam in 2013 for the epic Fifth in 2013—his 276th concert with the RCO and, ultimately, the final one before his death in 2016.

Bruckner’s Fifth is one of the masterpieces of the symphonic repertoire, but one that the composer—who fell ill before its premiere in 1894—never heard performed by a full orchestra. A marvel of structure and complex counterpoint, the epic work was first conducted by Franz Schalk, who wrote to Bruckner after the premiere, “I felt myself deeply moved, and that I wandered blissfully in the fields of eternal greatness. Those who did not hear it can have no idea of the shattering force of the final movement.” Unbeknownst to Bruckner, Schalk had cut nearly 20 minutes of music without the composer’s approval, and his abridged version fell out of favor only when Bruckner’s original 1878 version (heard here) was finally published in 1937.

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Friday, May 31, 2024