Sir Simon Rattle’s farewell tour with the London Symphony Orchestra over three nights in May at Sydney Opera House was a truly cathartic experience for this reviewer.
The shroud of post-COVID anxiety lifted when the conductor, with his trademark silver curly mane and beaming smile, stepped up to the podium and launched into a program of Ravel and Debussy paired with John Adams’s massive Harmonielehre.
The next night was even better with a magical performance of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, but the best was saved till last with Rattle conducting from memory a new Urtext edition of Bruckner’s Seventh. This version now gets its world premiere with LSO Live’s new release.
“The thing that is clearest about the new edition is where there are tempo changes and where there aren’t,” Rattle told Limelight before the tour. “When you have a score, which is entirely without everybody else’s ideas, you think, ‘Oh, my God, it’s all one pulse, it’s basically all one pulse.’”
Rattle seems to extract that little extra from his players in this live recording, even when compared to his old orchestra the Berlin Philharmonic’s 2016 set under Christian Thielemann. This Urtext performance feels like a cleaned up Old Master. There is no sense of drag, instead a floating freshness and the sense that Schubert, rather than Wagner, is the inspiration.
Rattle’s Brucknerian farewell ranks alongside those twin towers from the 1960s: Bruno Walter’s venerated 1961 reading with the Columbia Symphony and George Solti’s 1966 outing with the Vienna Phil.
Work: Symphony No. 7
Performer: London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle
Label: LSO Live LSO0887