'In the music critic’s equivalent of a busman’s holiday, I took a night off from reviewing the Proms on Saturday — and watched the concert on BBC TV instead. Even filtered through the tinny speakers of my low-fi telly, it was wonderful: Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, gloriously played by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle.
Wonderful, that is, except for one thing. In the entire work the cymbal player has just one moment of glory — a single, mighty clash at the climax of the sublime slow movement. To watch the player sit silently for half an hour, lift his glinting golden discs, prepare himself spiritually and physically for his thrilling entry, hurl the cymbals together with all his might, and then resume his seat and sit imperturbably for the remaining half-hour of the work — this is one of the great concert-hall experiences.
Well, you can guess my complaint. The TV director gave us innumerable close-ups of conductor, strings, brass and woodwind. But the poor old cymbal player’s moment of glory came and went, and he never got on camera! A huge disappointment for connoisseurs. But it’s his mum I really feel sorry for.'
Richard Morrison in good form in today’s Times. The slow movement of that symphony and the cymbal part have a number of resonances. Bruckner is said to have written the solitary cymbal clash into the score when he heard of the death of Wagner, or did he? One source says: 'The biggest issue relating to editions seems to relate to the inclusion of a cymbal clash at the climax of the adagio. This was originally suggested by Nikisch and added to the score but Bruckner seems to have been uncertain about it (although there is no doubt about the inclusion of the clash at the analogous point of the Eighth symphony). The Haas edition does not include the cymbal clash (whereas Nowak does) but some conductors, such as Karajan, have used Haas and then added the clash.'
The adagio movement gained notoreity when it was broadcast by the German radio (Deutscher Reichsrundfunk) when the news of Hitler's death was announced on May 1, 1945, and there is little doubt that Hitler was associated with Bruckner's music, the photo here shows him standing in front of a bust of the composer in 1937.
Which points us rather sadly down An Overgrown Path to the Berlin Philharmonic’s darkest hour.
Image credits - OK I know it's not the Berlin Philharmonic, it's from Tiny Pineapple, Hitler photo from Wikipedia Bruckner entry. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk