BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat
Eugen Jochum recorded Anton Bruckner's massive Symphony No. 5 four times, first in 1938 with the Hamburg Philharmonic, in 1958 with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra (available at budget price on DGG), and in 1980 with the Dresden Staatskapelle (available at budget price on EMI). A concert performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra was recorded May 30/31, 1964 in the Abbey of the Benedictine Monks, Ottobeuren, West Germany, issued in 1989 on Philips (426 107, nla). Now we have this final recording by Jochum, taped during his penultimate concert with his beloved Concertgebouw Orchestra, December 4, 1986. According to "Bruckner en het Koninklijk Concertgebouw-orkest" this was his twenty-first performance of this symphony in Amsterdam. He was 84 at the time and died three months later at his home in Munich.
The Fifth was a particular favorite of Jochum. TAHRA's notes include many detailed comments by the conductor on interpreting the entire symphony and how he uses 11 additional brass instruments in the finale: 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and 1 bass tuba, jokingly called "the 11 Apostles - Judas, the Twelfth, is not among them." Franz Schalk found when he conducted the work that when it came to the majestic last-movement chorale brass players were so tired they were unable to present this music in its full glory, so he introduced the 11 extra players in a raised position behind the orchestra, a concept supported by Jochum except that he has the extra players mixed in with the regular brass section. From bar 583 onward in this performance all of the brass, regular and added, join in the chorale, producing a grandiose effect indeed. This is the most expansive of all Jochum's recordings of the work, considerably longer than his earlier ACO version (82:10/75:54). In particular both the Adagio and finale each take about three minutes longer. The slower tempi surely are not detrimental; there is a sense of purpose to this performance, a master conductor totally at home in the repertory leading an orchestra with which he has had a long association. There are other Concertgebouw recordings of this work, the first being a live performance of March 1959 with Eduard van Beinum conducting. His objectivity produces a powerful performance that doesn't seem rushed although playing time is only 71:50. This has just reissued in an inexpensive 4-CD set that also contains commercial recordings of No. 7, 8 and 9. Bernard Haitink recorded the Fifth for Philips in September 1971, close to Beinum in performance time (72:53), and Riccardo Chailly conducted it for Decca/London in June 1991, taking a few minutes longer (75:29). Jochum's live recording boasts some of the finest sound from the Dutch radio engineers who have vividly captured the sound of the orchestra playing in its famous hall.
The performance is too long to fit onto one CD so TAHRA has played it on two, but the two are sold for the price of one. TAHRA's notes mention that the conductor's widow, Anni Jochum, recollected "he was so happy with the orchestral performance that he decided to repeat once more the last movement for the public's delight!." I speculate how tired the brass players - regular and added - must have been after that!
R.E.B. (Dec. 2000)