Seiji Ozawa conducts Bruckner’s First Symphony

  • Anton Bruckner
    Symphony No. 1 in C minor (53:39)

Anton Bruckner called his First Symphony a "saucy maid" and it is probably true to say that there is more exuberant joie de vivre to be found in this than in any other of the composer's works. In contrast to his later symphonies, he does not yet venture a glimpse into other worlds, but the composer, who was then in his early 40s, self-assuredly taps into the symphonic genre, but not in any way as an imitator of the great predecessors: we can already hear Bruckner's unmistakeable idiom and much original inspiration - from the march-like opening movement and the improvised-sounding Adagio, to the demonic Scherzo. Its culmination is the Finale, where Bruckner combines his outstanding mastery of polyphony with staggering ferocity.

It is hard to believe that, previous to this performance with Seiji Ozawa, the Berliner Philharmoniker had not included this highly original symphony in a concert for a quarter of a century. The magazine KlassikInfo wrote, "Ozawa, the timeless and enigmatic magician at the conductor's stand, emphasised the abrupt contrasts, the primeval outbursts, the darkly-glowing moments of calm and the surprise effects contained in Bruckner's early work ... without overstatement. Conducting from memory and with caring attention to the musicians, shaking the hands of many of them at the end of the performance, Ozawa lead the orchestra through the pitfalls of the score - and was rewarded with an allegiance which was as loyal as it was musical." 

Seiji Ozawa was born in Shenyang, China, in 1935 and studied conducting and composition in Tokyo. The winner of several international competitions and the holder of many major scholarships, he attended Herbert von Karajan’s masterclasses in Berlin before becoming Leonard Bernstein’s assistant at the New York Philharmonic during the 1961/62 season. He began his international career in North America as principal conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1965–69) and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (1970–76). His major successes at the Tanglewood Festival led to his appointment as the Festival’s artistic director in 1970. In 1984 he founded the Saito Kinen Orchestra and since then had done much to promote the orchestra’s work, performing a similar function for the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto since 1991. After almost three decades as artistic director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1973, Seiji Ozawa became music director of the Vienna State Opera from the start of the 2002/03 season. In 2004 he formed the International Music Academy in Switzerland with the aim of helping young musicians to develop as chamber recitalists and to give concerts. Among his numerous awards are his appointment as a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2001 and honorary doctorates at Harvard University (2000) and the Sorbonne (2004). He is much in demand as a guest conductor with leading orchestras all over the world. He made his Berliner Philharmoniker debut in 1966 and has returned on frequent subsequent occasions, most recently in mid-January 2008, when he conducted works by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

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