Riccardo Chailly leads his Concertgebouw Orchestra in a quality recording of one of Anton Bruckner's most immediately attractive works, the 4th Symphony in E-flat: good conducting, good orchestral playing and a good recording. Chailly's approach is a measured yet expressive interpretation which stresses the pastoral roots of the 4th without shortchanging the titanic and dramatic portions. If you wanted just one Bruckner 4th, this release will qualify.
I found Chailly's interpretation of the finale particularly grabbing. One of the keys to successfully interpreting the 4th symphony, in my humble opinion, is introducing large-scale metric nuances. (Meter, different from rhythm, is the grouping of beats in music, usually in 2s, 3s and 4s. Large-scale meter is the grouping of the smaller sets of beats into a larger structure.) The 4th can be turned into a plodding experience in a poor interpretation, since one of its weaknesses is too-insistent meter. Bruckner himself seems to be aware of this pitfall because the Finale contains numerous hemiolas, in this case the use of three-beat patterns in duple meter. More than any recording I have heard, Chailly sensitively accentuates these cross-metrical patterns, one of this performance's distinctive successes.
Another of the performance's strengths is the playing of hymn-like chorales, a typical Bruckner device. Chailly seems to have a particular liking for these chorales and presents stirring renditions of them several times in the 4th. One particularly memorable sequence is the solemn wind intrusion into the initial "Bewegt" (about 10 minutes into the 1st track).
The disc was released in 1990, 4 years after Chailly took the helm of the Concertgebouw, an orchestra he still leads in what is one of the longest conductor tenures currently active. Sound quality is good, although not as good as the engineering Decca consistently provided Chailly in the rest of his long list of releases for the label. 5 stars.