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The Independent Culture
Bruckner: Symphony No 4

San Francisco SO / Blomstedt

(Decca 443 327 2)

Herbert Blomstedt has a way with Bruckner. To some, that won't be news; but what this disc shows is that he can go deep - deeper in fact than many with starrier Brucknerian reputations. He knows that Bruckner needs time, patience; but he also realises that the rhythms - however simply repetitive they may be - need distinct pointing, the spring in the step, just as they would in one of Schubert's walking-songs. The result is a Bruckner Fourth that moves, flows, however slowly. Even in the finale (not one of Bruckner's most uniformly successful structures) there's a sense that one is following a great river.

The sound also feels just right: refined, but without the horrible, heavy plushness of some conductors. Blomstedt shows how a brass-rich Bruckner fortissimo can be sonorous without hectoring, how even the simplest wind solos can be made expressive. The pulse is steady without being rigid: Blomstedt judges his rubato with great subtlety. It's a long time since I've enjoyed a new Bruckner Four as much as this. It might even make converts.

Stephen Johnson