CD review: Bruckner’s Symphony no 1

First published in the Guardian on 17 July, 2015

Bruckner has never sounded quite so upbeat. Conductor Jaap van Zweden began his career as a violinist — at 19 he was the youngest-ever concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, just up the road from where he is now Honorary Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Given he knows orchestras from the inside out, it’s not surprising he gives plenty of agency to individual sections and players: this performance brims with conversation and unfolds without force. It’s less urgent than a lot of interpretations and Van Zweden almost always prioritises warm sound over brusque energy. The first movement is all optimism, an adventure of good, clean fun; the Adagio is more Mendelssohn than Mahler in its sweetness and buoyancy; the Scherzo and Finale bounce along with neat, clipped rhythms. Textures are luminous throughout: those who like their Bruckner laid on thick will want darker colours, but for me the classical lightness and clarity is a breath of fresh air.