Bruckner: 4th-symphony/7th-symphony (DG)
★★/★★ (each out of five)
Andris Nelsons prefaces two Leizpig Gewandhaus symphonies with small bites of Wagner — the prelude to Lohengrin and Siegfried’s funeral march. This makes sense inasmuch as Bruckner worshipped the ground that Wagner trod, but the effect is vaguely disorienting, as if one were to precede Schoenberg’s orchestral variations with Mahler’s Adagietto.
The Gewandhaus can play this stuff in their sleep and sometimes it sounds as if that’s just what they are doing. There is a lack of momentum in the fourth symphony that is close to soporific and, though the seventh comes to life with those big slow-movement crescendos, it’s hard to feel that real Schwung is sustained to the end. A booklet picture of the conductor having a nap with a Bruckner bust does not help matters.
Compared with the exhilarating Shostakovich symphonies that Nelsons is producing with his Boston Symphony orchestra the sluggishness is pronounced, despite some breath-taking virtuosity from the Gewandhaus brass. Maybe it’s something in the Leipzig diet. Maybe it’s the frequent flying. Whatever the case, someone here needs a wake-up call.