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Bruckner Cycle

The idea

François-Xavier Roth already kicked off his Bruckner cycle with the Gürzenich Orchestra with his inaugural concert in 2015: »The first time I played Bruckner with the Gürzenich Orchestra, it was immediately clear to me that we had to perform all the symphonies. The sound of the orchestra is fabulously suited to this romantic repertoire. Combined with modernist works, it creates a new perspective that makes it clear how far ahead of his time Bruckner was.« - Thus it was set that the works of this unique composer, should each be confronted with pieces by our contemporaries. Bruckner, whose lifetime overlapped with that of Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn on the one hand, and that of Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Debussy on the other, in the light of modernity. »In my Bruckner cycle with the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne, I would like to discover the utopian sides of his work together with the audience. Bruckner, the progressive.«

Bruckner Symphonies

Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 3 in D minor, WAB 103

Birth and death, happiness and misery, light and darkness: in his 3rd Symphony, Anton Bruckner looks into the kaleidoscope of all those opposites that determine existence. »Such is life!« stated the composer, who dedicated his Third to the idol Richard Wagner »in deepest reverence«. François-Xavier Roth strips Bruckner's »Wagner Symphony« of all later changes, conducts the 1st version from 1873 and thus continues his cycle »Bruckner, the Modern«.

Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, WAB 104

The Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne, conducted by François-Xavier Roth, plays the rarely performed original version of Anton Bruckner's 4th Symphony in E-flat major, »Die Romantische« (»The Romantic«) from 1874. Anton Bruckner himself gave his symphony, next to his 7th the most popular with the public, the nickname »Die Romantische«. It paints an ideal world in bright colors, as if looking back into an ideal past. Nevertheless, Bruckner was not satisfied. He reworked the work several times, in 1878 and 1880, creating an entirely new third movement, while other movements were fundamentally revised, shortened and condensed. François-Xavier Roth has chosen the original version from 1874 for this performance.

Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, WAB 105

Anton Bruckner reached new dimensions with his 5th Symphony - what he himself called his »contrapuntal masterpiece«, achieved through years of work. »Not for 1000 guilders«, said the composer, he wanted to write this work again. This, however, shows him at the peak of his creative and imaginative powers. From the first bar in pianissimo to the glorious finale with an enormous fugue, the Fifth casts its spell, fascinates with its long breath and solemn chorale sections, the blocks of sound and suggestive waves of intensification - elements that make Bruckner's style unmistakable. 

Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 6 A major, WAB 106

Bruckner’s Sixth, albeit no less mysterious, floods the space with rays of warmth despite its bright tonality. It draws endless arches, and the slow movement is a quest for eternity. Incidentally, Bruckner described this symphony as his most ‘perky’. For François-Xavier Roth, another piece falls into place on the way to completing his concert and recording cycle of all Bruckner symphonies.

Anton Bruckner

Symphony Nr. 7 E major, WAB 107

»Nothing even similar has been written since Beethoven!« So said Arthur Nikisch, who conducted the premiere of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in Leipzig in 1884. Perhaps it was the balanced proportions of the movements, perhaps it was the effect of the poignant Adagio movement, dedicated to the revered Richard Wagner, that won the audience from the very beginning - his 7th Symphony certainly gave Anton Bruckner his breakthrough to international acclaim.

Anton Bruckner

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, WAB 109

»Bruckner, the Modern« is what Gürzenich Kapellmeister François-Xavier Roth has prefaced his cycle, which he hopes to complete by performing all the symphonies and releasing them on CD by 2024, the 200th anniversary of Bruckner's birth. In this recording, he conducts Bruckner's last symphony, the 9th, in the original version with the three movements that Bruckner himself completed. A music that on the one hand wants to do justice to the dedication »Dem lieben Gott« (To the dear God) with its elegiac depth, on the other hand brusquely and wildly touches the boundaries of tonality.

 

 

»The sound of the Gürzenich Orchestra is fabulously suited to this romantic repertoire.«

 François-Xavier Roth 

 

 

 

CD Releases

Bruckner's Third - a creative history that is unique even for the great Austrian romantic. No other of his symphonies has been revised, reshaped and reissued more often. Yet the first version from 1873, which François-Xavier Roth has chosen for this recording, bristles with boldness and the joy of experimentation. Here, the reminiscence of Beethoven's Ninth and the works of the dedicatee Richard Wagner is almost tangible.

 

With this recording, François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne continue the highly acclaimed Bruckner Symphonies cycle and, with great attention to detail, once again present the "unvarnished" Bruckner, groundbreaking, virtuosic and refined.

After the tremendous success of the 7th Symphony, François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln continue their Bruckner complete symphonies cycle. The "Romantic", as Anton Bruckner himself entitles his 4th Symphony, was composed in 1874 in the midst of a period of personal defeat. And he immediately doubted his work, describing some parts as "unplayable" and finding "the instrumentation here and there overloaded and too turbulent". It was only years later, after numerous revisions, that the Fourth was premiered and Bruckner achieved the success he had longed for with the public of the time.

 

In this recording, François-Xavier Roth opts for the original version from 1874 and shows the untamed fantasy of the work and its Romanticism in the sense of a fascinating intellectual period in which poets such as Novalis focused on the nocturnal aspects of reason, and in which art was regarded as essentially unfinished, involved in the process of becoming. Particularly in this first version, Bruckner’s 4th Symphony presents itself as such: as a “neverending approximation”.

 

Spotify-Link

The first CD of the cycle is dedicated to the Seventh Symphony. Bruckner wrote it under the impression of the fire catastrophe that took the lives of numerous people in the Vienna Ring Theater on December 8, 1881, and the death of Richard Wagner, whom he deeply admired, in February 1883. For all its mourning, the symphony shows an unyielding urge for redemption, and its musical language is captivating in its boldness and modernity. With its premiere in Leipzig in 1884, it brought its creator the long-awaited recognition among the general public for the first time.

 

Spotify-Link

Current Reviews

»I find Roth’s direction of the score is sure-footed. [...] his tempo choices seem consistently sensible and he conducts the music with the intelligence that I’d expect from a conductor with his perceptive pedigree. In realising his conception of Bruckner’s music, he is supported by very fine playing from the Gürzenich-Orchester. Finally, the Myrios recorded sound is excellent in every respect.« – John Quinn

»The natural, unforced tread of the first movement’s second subject is a particular delight, as is Roth’s pleasingly easeful way with the slow movement and the late climax to which it naturally builds.« – Richard Osborne

»No Cologne orchestra director, not even Günter Wand and Marek Janowski, has shaped the Gürzenich Orchestra in such a record-breaking way as Roth. The Schumann symphonies: Departures into wild youthfulness. And now the Bruckner symphonies: world champion in conception, sense of style and degree of maturity. Roth recently recorded the Fourth in the rarely performed original version. Hardly any other German orchestra currently plays it with such brilliance.« – Wolfram Goertz

»Roth leads a compelling account – superbly played and recorded, bloom and lucidity happily married and sporting a wide dynamic range(...).« – Colin Anderson

»Roth creates the right mood with the Gürzenich Orchestra right from the start and celebrates the symphony on the one hand opulently in the tutti and at the same time with an adept attention to detail in the entire architecture. His profound understanding of Bruckner's work provides the listener with an almost traumatic-sounding andante. The scherzo (here in the original version) is lively, powerful and exciting to the last note. The excellently performing Gürzenich Orchestra unfolds all its virtuosity and enormous inventiveness in the allegro moderato.« – Kai Germann

»The Gürzenich Orchestra from Cologne plays the Fourth Symphony under chief conductor François-Xavier Roth with tension, contrast and without pathos. Thus Bruckner’s Romantic gains immediacy and secularity. The wistful slow sections in the first movement are particularly moving, on a path that Roth clearly sets out as a path from doubt to powerful self-confidence.« – Remy Franck

«Despite all the technical challenges, the Gürzenich Orchestra achieves a balanced overall vision that avoids too sharp breaks. Roth breaks down the orchestral sound in high transparency of the voices, the many instrumentation finesses profit from the chamber-musical togetherness.« – Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger

»The sombre, Andante march movement is steadily paced without undue haste and once again the horns provide sterling service, blip-free; its elegiac, resigned mood is maintained by dynamic restraint and minimal vibrato from the cellos iterating the main theme. I do like the way Roth cranks up the volume and tension for the conclusion of this otherwise gentle movement, transforming it into something much grander and imposing, with a superb brass contribution.« – Ralph Moore 

 

»This is the second in an ongoing series of Bruckner symphonies from Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester, which delivers top-notch playing in the transparent textures favored naturally enough by Roth; he is better known as a historical-instrument specialist. Roth is emerging as one of the hot conductors of the day, and here, with a rather deliberate, detailed reading of the Fourth, he penetrates the work's creative origins.« – James Manheim

Record of the week: »(...) an impressively airy sound.« – Andrew McGregor

Podcast

Episode 0 – GO Bruckner

Podcast about the complete Bruckner recording

Anton Bruckner: one who hides behind big words. Musical architect and shirt-sleeved country lad, doubter and optimist, sound giant and subtle registrar. But who was this contradictory composer? And why does Bruckner's music still fascinate us today? Marie König and Jonas Zerweck try to find out exactly that. In conversation, they approach Anton Bruckner - and invite us to rediscover the composer. A new podcast about the complete Bruckner recording by the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

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Episode 1 - Giant Symphonic Serpents

Why does Bruckner take so long?

Was Bruckner a megalomaniac? Or why did he compose such infinitely long symphonies? That's the question posed by Marie König and Jonas Zerweck, the hosts of this new podcast. Both have fallen asleep to Bruckner's music before. And both are fascinated by the vast sonic spaces they find only in this composer. How Bruckner suspends time and space, and which symphonies are best suited for video conferencing. Find out in the first episode of »GO Bruckner«.

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Episode 2 – Doubt

How hard did Bruckner struggle with himself?

Anton Bruckner is often portrayed as a doubter - as one who struggled with himself. He was never satisfied with his symphonies; he revised most of them several times and later declared many to be bad. But how does doubt fit with Bruckner's heroic, powerful music? In the second episode, we turn our attention to Bruckner's psychology and the question of how much perfectionism is actually healthy.

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Episode 3 - Heaven help

What was really sacred to Bruckner?

Publication expected from week 14.

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Bruckner Special 1-3

François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich Orchestra are working on a Bruckner cycle. In interviews, François-Xavier Roth talks about this project with musicians of the orchestra, with musicologist William Carragan, and with sound engineer Stephan Cahen.

Part 1/3

François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich Orchestra are working on a Bruckner cycle. This Bruckner Special reports from the recordings of the 2nd Symphony.

Part 2/3

François-Xavier Roth talks to William Carragan about his new edition of Bruckner's Symphony No. 2.

Part 3/3

»We have to try to create this utopia.« Our sound engineer Stephan Cahen of Myrios Classics talks to François-Xavier Roth about his work on the recordings of the Bruckner symphonies.

More information

Der Dirigent François-Xavier Roth blickt mit seiner französischen musikalischen Sozialisation auf die Musik von Anton Bruckner. Im Interview mit dem Deutschlandfunk erklärt er, wieso ihn das zu einer fließenden, transparenten Interpretation von Bruckners Siebter führt.