Thursday, September 13, 2012
Bruckner in Linz
Our time in Linz was devoted to the making of a DVD of Bruckner's 4th Symphony. The recording will be put together from the best parts of two concerts we gave in the basilica at the abbey of St. Florian, several miles outside of Linz.
Some Sight Seeing
On the way in to the church I was greeted by Bruckner himself!
He was the organist here. In fact, at his request, he was buried in the crypt below in a metal coffin directly under the organ, where he could feel the vibrations.
No trip to the church is complete without a visit to the crypt. Along with Bruckner are buried many of the past abbots of the monastery and some nobles, including a former queen of Poland.
When the church was being built in the 1200's, workers discovered the remains of an older Christian community when digging the foundation. These remains (over 6000 bodies) are neatly stacked in an ossuary just behind Bruckner's coffin.
Readers of this blog are probably now thinking that I'm obsessed with death and graves! Not to worry! When I have free time on a tour I try really hard to find things that we don't normally see in the U.S. I know of no graveside tributes to bassoonists in our country, nor have I ever seen an ossuary next to a composer's coffin in the crypt of an American church!
Maybe next fall I'll visit the Funerary Arts Museum in Vienna and give you all a full report!
Back to Bruckner!
Acoustics Make the Difference
Playing his music in this church is very special -- perhaps like hearing Wagner in Bayreuth. The music makes more sense in the live acoustics of the basilica. Bruckner is known and sometimes reviled for his baffling silences. With several seconds of decay, the silences are soaked up by a lovely dissipation of sound in this place.
Knowing that Bruckner was a deeply religious man it's valid to suppose that the combination of full orchestra statement followed by increasing silence in the decay could be the sonic equivalent of prayer or supplication offered to God.
The Recording Sessions
About the sessions: In order to maintain continuity between the two days of recording we were encouraged to be sure to wear exactly the same concert attire for both nights. No haircuts in between sessions! If you wear reading glasses to play, be sure you wear them on both nights.
For a cleaner visual, we were discouraged from bringing cases, water bottles, etc. on stage. Some did bring reed tools and smaller items, though.
I refrained (for once) from using my earplugs. Putting them in and taking them out could be distracting. Also, we in the bassoon section avoided using our bassoon stands during rests.
We've performed the 4th many times already this year, so just the two performances sufficed for the recording. No patch session.
Camera crews meshed uneasily with the performers on a cramped area in front of the altar. Some cameramen asked for musicians to avoid certain poses so they could film rows of players unobstructed. This was met with varying degrees of compliance. In a stressful situation, it's hard enough to concentrate on playing well!
There was also a surprising amount of noise coming from the technical crew during the concerts. I guess none of it will bleed into the soundtrack?
Reaction at the conclusion of each concert was interesting. The audiences were appreciative, but not boisterous in applause, shouting, etc. I think the combination of Bruckner and a sacred site gave a more muted, reverent response than what we'd experienced elsewhere.
Bruckner in St. Florian
This was certainly not the first time anyone has recorded a Bruckner work in St. Florian. Here are some examples.
We were there in 2006 and recorded the 5th:
Here are two famous recordings of the 8th made in the church:
Pierre Boulez and the Vienna Philharmonic
The Vienna Philharmonic with Karajan