Sunday, August 31, 2008

Giuseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001)
A survey of his Bruckner performances (1983-99)

Martin Spiteri BA (Hons) Public Admin MA Econ (Reading)
Senior Public Officer, Malta Public Service

Giuseppe Sinopoli was born in Venice on 2 November 1946 of a Venetian mother and Sicilian father. He began his musical studies when he was 12 and continued them at the Venice Conservatory while also studying medicine at the University of Padua. Later on he studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and composition with Bruno Maderna and Franco Donatoni in Darmstadt, Germany. He also composed several works, the most important being his 1981 opera, Lou Salome. During the last years of his life he also studied archaeology at La Sapienza University of Rome. He died while conducting Aida in Berlin on 20 April 2001.

In addition to his life as an itinerant conductor of opera and symphonic music, Sinopoli held several other posts, the most durable of which was the directorship of the venerable Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra, where he was resident conductor from 1992. From 1983 to 1987 he was the chief conductor of the St. Cecilia Academy Orchestra in Rome. He was appointed principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London in 1984, and was music director there from 1987 to 1995. According to Keith Bragg, former Chairman of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Sinopoli 'was a hugely charismatic figure, larger than life in every sense of the word, and this, combined with his young age of 54, made his untimely death all the more bewildering. ... He was a warm and generous character and a deeply committed musician who was passionate about his art.' (Bragg 2001)

Sinopoli's executive producer Ewald Markl exclaimed that 'with the passing away of Giuseppe Sinopoli we have lost a conductor who was young in years but whose manner was reminiscent of conductors of days now long-forgotten. Giuseppe Sinopoli was a conductor who quoted Byron to explain Robert Schumann's Manfred Overture; a conductor who thanked his Japanese hosts with spontaneous Haikus; a conductor who telephoned his family in Rome after a performance to dictate a Greek exercise to his eldest son; and a conductor who, just a few weeks ago, gave a concert in Caracas performed exclusively by children who live on the streets'. (Markl 2001)

As far as Bruckner performances are concerned, Sinopoli recorded six Bruckner symphonies (Nos. 3-5 and 7-9) with Staatskapelle Dresden for Deutsche Grammophon between 1987 and 1999. He also conducted a live performance of the Sixth symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra for a BBC broadcast on 20 March 1987 - the concert recording, however, was never released commercially. Moreover, it is known that there were several other performances of Bruckner symphonies conducted by Sinopoli with various orchestras such as Rome's Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. So far, of these ‘live performances’ it appears there is also a recording of his Bruckner 4 performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Suntory Hall, Tokyo on 16 September 1988. This survey is mainly intended to provide a checklist of all known Sinopoli Bruckner performances, some general aspects of his Bruckner interpretation, a brief evaluation of his Bruckner recordings, as well as a selection of interesting and thought-provoking extracts from published reviews. The last section includes references, further reading and multimedia resources with a view to stimulate more interest in this great conductor and his cultural achievements.

General comments on Sinopoli's Bruckner

L'intelligenza che analizzava la pagina non faceva altro che fornire legna al fuoco dell'emozione. Perciò il suo Mahler, il suo Wagner, il suo Bruckner, il suo Schönberg, il suo Skrjabin e, pochi lo hanno notato e detto, il suo inimitabile Ravel (la sua interpretazione del 'Bolero' è semplicemente allucinata), ma anche il suo Puccini e perfino il suo bellissimo Verdi ci apparivano così incandescenti e insieme così intrisi del senso della morte, della fine: il suo Ciajkovskij sembrava quasi putrefatto.

The intelligence that analysed the page did nothing other than provide fuel for the fire of emotion. For this reason his Mahler, his Wagner, his Bruckner, his Schönberg, his Skriabin and, what few have noticed and commented upon, his inimitable Ravel (his interpretation of Bolero is simply amazing), but also his Puccini and even his lovely Verdi used to appear to us so incandescent and altogether soaked in a sense of death, of the end: his Tchaikovsky used to appear almost putrefied. (Villatico 2001)

The Second Viennese School was a speciality to which he brought a sense of style and formal appreciation, while in its precursors, Bruckner and Mahler, his objective approach sometimes paid unlikely dividends. (Clements 2001)

Sinopoli's reinterpretation of familiar scores owes much to his bilateral training, first as a doctor, and then as a composer. On the one hand he literally dissected the music so it achieved uniform transparency (his Mahler Das Lied von der Erde being a perfect example). On the other hand, he brought a composer's insight to a conductor's role, deconstructing here and reconstructing there. There was, however, always an intellectual rigour to a Sinopoli performance and if his Mahler did not always reveal this, his Bruckner, which he turned to later in his career, definitely did. Recordings of the Fifth, Eighth and Ninth symphonies have towering strength and are amongst the finest of the last decade. Hear a Sinopoli Bruckner symphony and you hear textures and notes which are missed in other performances. Compare Sinopoli's Dresden Bruckner with Jochum's Dresden Bruckner and you hear the correct balance versus the obtuse balance. Sinopoli's brass were gloriously restrained, whereas Jochum's sabotaged the detail. (Bridle)

It is easy to see where the critical hostility came from: Sinopoli's preference for slow speeds and mannered, sometimes lifeless phrasing, brought back a juggernaut approach to Brahms and Schumann at a time when authentic liveliness was the order of the day, and could result in some leaden evenings in the concert hall. Yet there was always the phenomenal ear for layering of textures, however eccentric - the brass perspectives in his Bruckner interpretations were impressive, and recognisably Sinopolian, whatever the doubts about the pacing of the performance - and the capacity to surprise. (Nice 2001)

Evaluating Giuseppe Sinopoli's Bruckner recordings

In 2004 there was an interesting one-page article in TBJ regarding the BBC concert broadcast of Sinopoli's Bruckner 6, which provided me with a lot of food for thought about this conductor, as at that time I already knew about The 2002 Penguin Guide Rosette rating of his Bruckner 5 CD. Eventually, the first of Sinopoli's Bruckner performances I heard was Symphony No. 3, then No. 6. After listening attentively to these two performances I felt strongly that these Bruckner recordings are in many ways similar and complimentary to Celibidache's Munich set on EMI, which I normally consider as my standard yardstick for comparative purposes.

In general, Sinopoli's Bruckner performances tend to be somewhat faster (total timings are indicated in the list below) than Celibidache's later recordings - but similarly, having magnificent brass and string textures. Sinopoli's tempi are indeed close to Celibidache's 1970s and early 1980s live recordings included in the Deutsche Grammophon Editions as well as the mid-1980s concert broadcast recordings (such as his 1985 Eighth, just over 90 minutes, and 1986 Ninth, spanning 67 minutes, both with Münchner Philharmoniker). Tempi are also very similar to most Asahina's performances included in the JVC (1980s) and Pony Canyon (1990s) Bruckner sets.

Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9 are edited from live recordings at Dresden Semper Oper, with the Fifth, that is the last one recorded, generally considered as the crowning glory of the set. Nos. 3, 7, 8 and 9 are also very strong performances with exceptional clear sound but some lack of ambient atmosphere, especially in Nos. 3 and 8. Symphony No. 4, the first one recorded, seems to be somewhat shaky in some instances, although quite enjoyable overall with the same clear sound as the other recordings. It is evident that the working relationship between Sinopoli and the Staatskapelle Dresden was developing in an exceptional manner as can be witnessed, for example, from his highly moving Dvorak Stabat Mater (his last live recording on 12 March 2001) as well as his superb Verdi Requiem recorded live on 13 and 14 February 2001 just over two months before his death as a fund-raising project for the rebuilding of the Dresden Frauenkirche.

The typical sound of the Dresden orchestra was also to large extent highly idiosyncratic - this indeed may have induced me to listen to it with more interest. In this respect, a very interesting comment I received lately from Professor Neil Schore, after his listening to Sinopoli's Bruckner 8 for the first time, is worth quoting here: ' Recently I heard Sinopoli Bruckner 8 with the Dresden, an orchestra that had a unique sound - hard to describe, but rustic, even rough and sometimes harsh, completely the opposite of the finely tuned machines out of Berlin or Vienna. As is the case with all I have heard from Sinopoli, it is very dramatic'.

My appreciation of the Sinopoli Bruckner performances eventually triggered me to search for any press interviews with Sinopoli as well as reviews of the individual performances. Reading Sinopoli's views and comments (mostly in Italian) on music and his favourite composers has become for me a highly inspiring experience. I then started to search specifically for his comments on Bruckner; however they turned out to be rather sparse compared to his other favourite composers, especially Wagner and Mahler.

As can be clearly perceived from the selected extracts below, most of the press reviews highlight various strong points in respect of Sinopoli's Bruckner recordings and it appears that all CDs have been very well received and appreciated. It is also generally true that one tends to hear several notes and textures which you don't hear in other Bruckner recordings. This may be due both to his training and practice in composition as well as his professional grounding in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. One therefore wonders why Deutsche Grammophon has not yet issued an edition of the Sinopoli Bruckner set, of which, except for symphonies Nos 4 and 5, all recordings have now been unavailable for quite some time.

Selected extracts of press reviews of Giuseppe Sinopoli's Bruckner performances and recordings

Third symphony
It is good to have a newcomer to this symphony on record, Giuseppe Sinopoli, opting for the preferable but too little recorded First Definitive Version of Bruckner's flawed but magnificent Wagner-Symphonie. It is also gratifying to find a Bruckner conductor from the younger generation of interpreters who is both aware and level-headed, with a fine grasp both of Bruckner's orchestral methods and his long-breathed arguments. Though Sinopoli occasionally gently pressures tempos at nodal points, the pressure is never otiose. Having opted for the 1877 text (complete with the added third movement coda which Nowak includes in his edition), Sinopoli treats it sympathetically and with respect. (Osborne 1991)

Fourth symphony
I probably have more versions of Bruckner 4 on the shelves than any other (twelve) and to make comparisons with them all would be very time-consuming. But I don’t need to re-listen to others to express some confidence that this is one of the best-sounding, if not the best. The acoustic is perfect for the composer, orchestra just far enough back in the sound perspective and the recording very detailed. Textures are beautifully layered, aided by violins divided left and right. Most of the credit for the judicious balances should probably go to Sinopoli - you can just about hear every note that Bruckner wrote. The orchestral playing is first-class and one senses that the players have this music in their soul. It now seems hard to believe but this recording was made behind the "iron curtain" – how life has moved on in less than twenty years.
This may not be a first-choice for the fourth symphony but it is a rather classical and dispassionate interpretation in very fine sound. Let us hope that DG will re-issue the other Sinopoli Bruckner recordings, preferably collected together in an economical way. (Waller 2006)

Fifth symphony
Sinopoli's disc appeared in the very month of his untimely death, a wonderful memorial, characterful and strong in a positive, even wilful way distinctively his. The Dresden Staatskapelle responds with playing of incandescent intensity, totally allied with the conductor in silencing any stylistic reservations. This is a reading of high dramatic contrasts, with the towering climaxes of the outer movements both rugged and refined, purposeful and warm, with the variegated structure of the finale tautly held together. This is a live recording, and the inspiration of the moment comes over at full force. The energy of the Scherzo and the passion of the slow movement complete the picture of an exceptionally high-powered reading, recorded in glowing sound. (March et al. 2001)
Bruckner's Fifth seems to me his most devout and cathedral-like symphony, its exterior grand and imposing, its interior hushed and intimate. Recorded in March 1999, the late Giuseppe Sinopoli's latest Bruckner performance on disc with the Staatskapelle Dresden is very impressive. This is weighty, trenchant Bruckner, thrillingly cumulative. The tuttis are massive, instrumental strands cleanly defined, climaxes finely honed. Sinopoli eschews sentimentality, mysticism or pseudo-religiosity. There's no lack of expressiveness or radiance, the music often rising to eloquence , but it's Sinopoli's grasp of architecture, his granitic resolve and his 'modernist' examination of harmony and scoring that linger in the memory. The recording is close and vivid, a tad airless in the final pages--a pity about the low-frequency buzz running through movements 2 to 4. A Fifth for those who can square up to the music. (Anderson 2001)

This new version of Bruckner's Fifth Symphony was recorded in Dresden two years ago. Sinopoli is punctilious in observing all the gradations of dynamics, and in pointing up the web of thematic links that binds this huge structure in such a unity, though his ultra-slow adagio tends towards ponderousness at times; in the finale he synthesises all its constituents - fugue and chorale as well as references to the earlier movements - with granitic inevitability. It is a massive and ultimately impressive reading, wonderfully delivered by the Staatskapelle, and, though there are presumably more Sinopoli recordings awaiting release, a timely tribute to his distinctive ability. (Clements 2001)
This is Sinopoli's last commercial Bruckner recording (edited from a series of live performances at the Semper Oper in Dresden) before his untimely death in April 2001. Sinopoli was a controversial but highly gifted musical personality, full of ideas and always ready to convey the passion he felt for his favourite composers. This Fifth unfolds at a steady pace in a somewhat reserved manner, but seldom have the intricacies of its Finale been resolved with such force and conviction, and as well supported by such a magnificent orchestra. It is as though everything was saved for that culminating moment in the coda, where this performance shows its glory. The recording is a fine memorial to a conductor who will be missed. (Khalona and Griegel 2002)
With this live recording of the Fifth Symphony, Giuseppe Sinopoli adds a new chapter to his well-received Bruckner series with the Staatskapelle Dresden, a team which has a very special ring about it. There is no doubt that his approach will reveal new facets of this work, considering Sinopoli´s reputation for a powerful, expressive and intellectually rigorous account of a score and a clear realisation of its inner and outer details. The Fifth Symphony was the most powerful symphony Bruckner had yet written, and the most puzzling – undoubtedly one of the grandest and most original of the entire cycle. Nowadays the most widely accepted version of this symphony (as of others) is Bruckner´s original, as recorded here, which was largely completed in 1876 and underwent some slight revisions in 1877-78. (iclassics)

Sinopoli's Bruckner No. 5 has all the rhetorical grandeur necessary for an outstanding performance of this composer's music, but it also has a degree of detail rarely encountered. It's as if the score has been exactly translated into sound, with inner figures reaching the ear without exaggeration. The Dresden orchestra's playing is all one could ask for: weighty and airy at the same time, breathtaking accuracy and warmth from the strings, brass that cuts through the climaxes with weight and power, and wind playing of consummate sensitivity, helped in no small measure by the unique tonal quality of the oboe and flutes, rounder and warmer than we're used to from American orchestras. The engineering has an analytical, somewhat dry sound, whose dynamic extremes make it hard to find the right volume setting. All in all, one of the most interesting Bruckner Fives on the market. (Dan Davis,
Some of his (Sinopoli's) performances were clearly wayward, but he gave a very fine series of Bruckner 5 in the later 1980s (a work he never conducted in London), in which the string sound mushroomed quite sumptuously and the brass textures blazed in a way not even matched by his recent fine recording of the work in Dresden. (Hall 2001)

Sixth symphony
Giuseppe Sinopoli last night offered a very different route through the Sixth Symphony, making its progress quite odd and obscure, and giving the impression rather that we were going forward with difficulty through dense fog. (Griffiths 1987)

Seventh symphony
Anche in Bruckner [7ª sinfonia] Sinopoli evita la tentazione della malinconia e del ripiegamento intimista. Prende così corpo un'interpretazione di assoluto rigore strutturale, quanto mai emozionante per anticonvenzionalità e fascino. Si tratta di una lettura in chiave modernista, che lascia intravedere sotto le ampie e tortuose volute del sinfonismo bruckneriano la lucida chiaroveggenza nel dominare, quasi in senso drammatico, il materiale e le derivazioni tematiche. Ma si coglie anche il significato sperimentale della ritmica e, naturalmente, l'originalità livida e visionaria di alcuni impatti timbrici (specie nell'Adagio e nello Scherzo); qua e là, si giunge persino ad apprezzare un insospettabile tocco di eleganza. Grazie a questo radicale ripensamento interpretativo, l'esito è così intenso da mozzare il fiato.
Also in Bruckner (Seventh Symphony) Sinopoli avoids the temptation of melancholy and inmost retreat. In this way takes shape an interpretation of absolute structural rigour, so exciting due to its anti-conventionality and its charm. His is a reading of a modernist tone, that leaves one to catch a glimpse, under the broad and tortuous spirals of Brucknerian symphonism, of the far-sighted lucidity that dominates, almost in a dramatic sense, the material and its thematic derivations. But one also grasps the experimental significance of the rhythmic and, naturally, the livid and visionary originality of some tonal impacts (especially in the Adagio and Scherzo); here and there, one even arrives at appreciating an unsuspected touch of elegance. Thanks to this radical interpretative rethinking, the outcome is so intense as to take your breath away. (Fertonani 1993)
It is not uncommon to hear Sinopoli spoken of as a 'stop-go' conductor, and it is true that he sometimes tends to cosset this or that detail and is reluctant to allow the musical argument to speak for itself. His account of the Seventh Symphony with the Staatskapelle Dresden is, however, unaffected, very well held together and beautifully played. Indeed it must be numbered among the best of Sinopoli's recordings, both artistically and technically, although Blomstedt's set with the same orchestra has greater nobility. (March et al. 1996)
Some of my most moving concert experiences have been hearing the Philharmonia under Giuseppe Sinopoli in the Festival Hall. There were unforgettable performances of Mahler 9 and 5, a searching Bruckner 7 (I remember the 7th there well. It seemed a somewhat 'sectional' or 'analytic' performance - but very good) and some glorious Strauss - just to mention a few highlights of a glorious era. In fact there are few [Philharmonia] concerts that stand out so strongly in my memory since Klemperer's Bruckner 7, 8 and 9 in the early '60s. (Ward 2001)

Eighth symphony
The final point to note about the performance is perhaps the most important. It is Sinopoli’s amazingly exact calibration of dynamics and dynamic levels and the extraordinarily precise realization of this by the Dresden players. Nor is there anything remotely self-conscious about this. It is simply a question of delivering the music as Bruckner intended it to be delivered. (Osborne 1996)

Ninth symphony
La sua introduzione della Nona sinfonia di Anton Bruckner, con la ritmica, cupa predominanza dei timpani sugli altri strumenti, ricorda un po' l'interpretazione di Hans Knappertsbusch. Vi si è ispirato?
Già a Bayreuth, eseguendo il 'Parsifal' di Wagner, gli orchestrali mi fecero notare certe somiglianze con la visione che di quel brano aveva il Kapellmeister di Erbelfeld. Non volute. Devo però ammettere che all'ascolto, pur essendo grandi le differenze, ne ho intravisto l'affinità spirituale. (Lenzi 2001)
Q: Your introduction to the Ninth Symphony of Anton Bruckner, with rhythmic, dark predominance of the timpani over the other instruments, is to some degree reminiscent of the interpretation of Hans Knappertsbusch. Have you been inspired by it?
A: Already at Bayreuth whilst performing Wagner's Parsifal, the orchestral musicians have drawn my attention to certain similarities to the vision that the Kappellmeister of Erbelfeld had with regard to that particular piece. Not really intentional. However, I have to admit that when I heard the piece, although there were great differences, I have caught a glimpse of the spiritual affinity.

Opinions divide regarding Sinopoli's Bruckner. He was to record all 9 symphonies for DG, but record company cuts mean the cycle will not be completed. This account of the 9th symphony, recorded during live performances, is powerful and highly intelligent. As so often with Sinopoli, you hear things obscured in other recordings, such is the clarity and balancing of forces. It's an interpretation based solely on what's in the score - by turns thrilling and challenging - with a broad muscular line that gives the music a secular modern feel. The 9th is Bruckner's most anguished score. He looks into the abyss (like Mahler in his 9th symphony), but without resolving the uncertainties and doubts he sees there. That the work remained unfinished at Bruckner's death (the finale was never completed) is partly to blame for the work's ambivalence.
Given this, Sinopoli plays the work with remarkable clarity of vision, bringing a keen far-sighted objectivity to music that can sound unbearably fraught and painful. Not that the performance lacks passion or fire; on the contrary, the Staatskapelle play with gripping intensity throughout. Rather, Sinopoli's eyes are set to a distant horizon as he makes us aware time and again of how remarkable the music is, and how modern too. DG's recording sounds sonorous, full, and highly detailed, with some bonecrunching climaxes, and forward balances. (JMH)

The latest explorers to boldly go are the late Sergiu Celibidache, whose Zen Bud-dhist-like Munich Philharmonic recordings of Bruckner have finally been issued in America, by EMI, and Giuseppe Sinopoli, Mr. Symphonic Deconstruction, who weighs in with the Staatskapelle Dresden on a new Deutsche Grammophon release.
Longer is, alas, not always better. Certainly Bruckner's complex sound picture needs room to unfold, but it operates in a sophisticated spacetime (Anton didn't need Albert to tell him about relativity), and when you take away the time -- and the mortality -- his symphonies just get lost in space. I expected Giuseppe Sinopoli's reading to stress Bruckner's manic-depressive nature (this conductor has a degree in psychiatry, after all), but it emotes rather than explores. The initial slow tempo causes the composer's kinetic rhythms to flatten out, and when the second subject arrives, it can hardly get slower, as Bruckner's "langsamer" indicates it should. Histrionics mar the close of both second and third subjects; transitions are flat-footedly literal (try the one between second and third subjects starting at bar 153; 7:14); and Sinopoli sprints into the (otherwise well-judged) coda as if he were meeting a date, not his Maker.
The Trio of the Scherzo is a little square, and the Adagio is heavy and literal, with a cataclysm that's powerful but not ugly. Sinopoli isn't helped by Deutsche Grammophon's bright, shallow sound, which robs the horns of air at the end of the first movement's exposition (bar 219; 10:22) and may be responsible for the lack of contrast in the call-and-response for first violins (bars 51-54; 2:09). The symphony is beautifully played, just not beautifully thought out by a conductor who hasn't spent as much time as the composer did listening to Satan in the desert. (Gantz 1999)

Giuseppe Sinopoli on music

The importance of music in our life
La vita è un viaggio che si compie in solitudine. Il viaggio di un altro può non prevedere la musica, ma la pittura o la letteratura. Però la musica può aiutarci a vivere più di un quadro o un libro perché è dinamica, prende uno spazio fisico e un tempo. (Palermi)
Life is a journey that one fulfils in solitude. The journey of someone else may not make provision for music, but rather for painting or literature. However music can help us in life more than a painting or a book, because it is dynamic, it takes physical space and time.

Per me l'archeologia e' la conoscenza e la musica l'espressione. Non potrei pensare la mia vita senza studio ed entrambe ne fanno parte. (
For me archaeology is knowledge and music is expression. I can't imagine my life without study and both form part of it.

The score is only an elementary sign
Ma questo segno è fenomeno o è la musica fenomeno? La musica "vive" nel momento stesso in cui si fa fenomeno, però la coincidenza tra fenomeno e segno è molto complessa. E' un po' ingenuo dire io eseguo ciò che è scritto in partitura. Ingenuità stupenda ma inefficace: è come pensare che il Bene possa venire in ogni momento e dominare il Male, come credere nella pluripotenzialità della mamma o del papà... (Foletto 1991)
But is this sign [the score] the phenomenon or is music itself the phenomenon? Music "lives" in the same moment in which the phenomenon is made, but the coincidence between the phenomenon and the sign is much more complex. It is a little bit ingenuous to say I perform everything that is written in the score. A marvellous ingenuousness, but rather ineffective: it is like thinking that the Good could overcome the Bad in every moment, like believing in the plural power of the mother or the father...

Music addressing spiritual problems
I think we speak of psychology because it's better for people today than speaking about spirituality. If you speak about spirituality, nobody understands, or maybe they misunderstand. But when I speak about the psychological, I don't mean it in the modern sense of scientific, clinical psychology, but in the very, very old meaning of the word that is, to speak about the soul, the spirit. I don't conduct music that is not a manifestation of the existential and spiritual problems of life. (Kozinn 2001)

Music makes us beautiful
Ecco il messaggio inedito di Giuseppe Sinopoli, inviato il 13 ottobre 2000 a Pietro Bria, primario di consultazione psichiatrica all'Ospedale Gemelli, perche' lo leggesse ai pazienti a introduzione dell'iniziativa "Giovani artisti in ospedale".
Sono veramente felice che l'iniziativa di portare la Musica negli ospedali continui il suo percorso. Sarei stato cosi' volentieri con voi per continuare ad imparare i profondi legami che passano fra il dolore e la sublimazione di esso attraverso un'attivita' dello spirito. So bene che questa parola e' oggi malintesa o sfruttata in ambiti ingenui che rasentano l'animismo. Tuttavia lo Spirito e' cio' che ci permette di elaborare il dolore, di superare la difficile realta', per procedere verso mete illuminate dall'utopia della speranza. La musica e' forse il momento in cui l'uomo raggiunge, con i suoi sensi e con il suo intelletto, i confini estremi della materia: cio' che e' impossibile misurare, quantificare, toccare.
La musica e' quantita', misura, nel periodo in cui viene scritta o nell'attimo in cui lo strumento, stimolato dal musicista, la produce. Qui si compie un salto misterioso; quello che noi ascoltiamo e' immateriale e nell'attimo in cui lo percepiamo sparisce per diventare memoria. La musica e' il segno piu' sublime della nostra transitorieta'. La Musica, come la Bellezza, risplende e passa per diventare la memoria, la nostra piu' profonda natura. Noi siamo la nostra memoria. Il superamento del dolore e' necessario perche' la nostra vita riacquisti il senso della Bellezza. Forse la musica con la sua impalpabile bellezza, ci puo aiutare. Giuseppe Sinopoli

Here is the unpublished message by Giuseppe Sinopoli, sent on 13 October 2000 to Pietro Bria, head psychiatric consultancy at Gemelli Hospital, so that he can read it to the patients as introduction to the "Young artists in hospital" initiative:
“I am very happy that the initiative of bringing music into hospitals is continuing its journey. I would have been so glad to be with you to continue learning about the profound links between pain and its purification through an activity of the spirit. I know very well that this word is nowadays misunderstood or abused in naive domains which border on the animism. Nevertheless, it is the Spirit which permits us to elaborate pain, to overcome the difficult reality, in order to proceed towards aims and goals illuminated by the utopia of hope. Music is perhaps the moment in which man reaches, through his senses and intellect, the extreme boundaries of matter: that which is impossible to measure, quantify and touch.
Music is quantity, measurement, in the period when it is written or at the moment in which the instrument produces it as stimulated by the musician. Here a mysterious step takes place; what we hear is non-material and, at the moment we perceive it, it vanishes to become memory. Music is the most sublime sign of our temporary reality. Music, like Beauty, shines and goes by to become memory, our most profound nature. We are our own memory. Overcoming pain is necessary so that our life regains the sense of Beauty. Maybe music can help us with its impalpable beauty. Giuseppe Sinopoli” (Lenzi 2001b)

The Conductor’s role
Dirigo soltanto musiche che entrano nei miei interessi mentali e culturali. Rossini, per quanto lo ami, non rientra nei miei interessi per cui non saprei come farlo, non so proprio. Mozart, lo amo moltissimo: come amo il mare. Ma non so nuotare. (Foletto 1991)
I conduct only music that enters within my mental and cultural interests. Rossini, although you love him so much, does not form part of my interests and therefore I wouldn't know how to conduct him, I simply don't know. I love Mozart immensely: as much as I love the sea. But I don't know how to swim.

Ogni musicista ha libero accesso alla mia posta, sa tutto sull'attività. Con l'orchestra discuto i programmi. Abbiamo così deciso di incrementare accanto a Strauss, Bruckner, Wagner, pilastri del repertorio, la presenza di Mahler, non troppo amato dal socialismo reale, e la scuola viennese, Berg, Schönberg, Webern. (Cannavo 1993)
Every orchestral musician has liberal access to my post and therefore knows everything about the activities. I discuss the programmes with the orchestra. So we have decided to promote in addition to Strauss, Bruckner and Wagner, pillars of the repertoire, the presence of Mahler, not so much loved by real socialism, as well as the Viennese School, Berg, Schonberg and Webern.

Two or three times I used rehearsals to analyse with the players Bruckner Five and Beethoven Nine. I would say 'you can never play this piece if you don't hear how it is composed'. (Morrison 1991)

Giuseppe Sinopoli's Bruckner performances in chronological order 1

12, 13, 14 June 1983 - Symphony No 9 / Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome Accademia concerts) (Sinopoli 2006, ed. Cappelletto) 8
1, 2, 3 April 1984 - Symphony No 4 / Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome Accademia concerts) (Sinopoli 2006, ed. Cappelletto) 8
10, 11, 12 November 1984 - Symphony No 7 / Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome Accademia concerts) (Sinopoli 2006, ed. Cappelletto) 8
30, 31 May 1985 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Royal Hall, Nottingham and Royal Festival Hall, London - Martyn Jones) 8
2, 3, 4, 5 June 1985 - Symphony No 7 - Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Teatro Maliban, Vienna; Duomo, Parma; Teatro Comunale, Bologna and RAI Auditorium, Turin - Martyn Jones) 8
14, 15, 16, 17 December 1985 - Symphony No 6 / Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome Accademia concerts) (Sinopoli 2006, ed. Cappelletto) 8
2 June 1986 - Symphony No 4 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Royal Festival Hall, London - Martyn Jones) 8
29 August 1986 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Lucerne - Martyn Jones) 8
3, 8, 11 September 1986 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts in USA: Ravinia; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Ann Arbor - Martyn Jones) 8
2 October 1986 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Brucknerhaus , Linz - Martyn Jones) 8
20 March 1987 - Symphony No 6 (1881 Original version Ed. Leopold Nowak [1952]) / Philharmonia Orchestra [60:30] Disc # COR-100 (This concert was promoted by Philharmonia Ltd and sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric (UK) Ltd - Griffiths 1987, Ward 2004 and Stephen Miller) 2
19, 21 August 1987 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Stadthalle, Lubeck and Deutsches Haus, Flensburg - Martyn Jones) 8
18, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30 September 1987 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Tonhalle, Zurich; Meistersingerhalle, Nurnberg; Philharmonie, Berlin; Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich; Tonhalle, Dusseldorf; and Schauspielhaus, East Berlin - Martyn Jones) 8
September 1987 - Symphony No 4 (1882 (aka 1878/80) Leopold Nowak [1953]) / Staatskapelle Dresden [66:58] DG 423 677-2 3
7 December 1987 - Symphony No 5 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Royal Festival Hall, London - Martyn Jones) 8
1987 - Symphony No 5 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Altes Schloss Kiel concert performance - Michael Schaffer) 8
21 February 1988 - Symphony No 8 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Royal Festival Hall, London - Martyn Jones) 8
9, 10, 12, 17 March 1988 - Symphony No 8 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Sala Grande del Teatro la Fenice, Venice; Teatro Municipale, Reggio Emilia; Istituzione dei Concerti, Cagliari; and Carnegie Hall, New York - Martyn Jones) 8
5, 26, 27 June 1988 - Symphony No 8 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Royal Festival Hall, London; Stadthalle, Lubeck; and Schloss, Kiel - Martyn Jones) 8
5 July 1988 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (London Royal Festival Hall - Ken Ward (Ward 2001) 8
14, 16, 18 September and 1 October 1988 - Symphony No 4 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts in Japan at Bunka Kaikan, Tokyo; Suntory Hall, Tokyo; Nova Hall, Tsukula; and Bunka Kaikan, Chiba-Ken - Martyn
Jones and John F Berky) 7
1 January 1989 - Symphony No 5 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Brucknerhaus, Linz - Martyn Jones) 8
23, 24, 25, 26 July 1989 - Symphony No 3 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Royal Festival Hall, London; Stadthalle, Lubeck; Deutsches Haus, Flensberg; and Neumunster - Martyn Jones) 8
28 August 1989 - Symphony No 7 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Teatro Greco, Taormina - Martyn Jones) 8
12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21 November 1989 - Symphony No 3 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Palau de la Musica, Barcelona; Palau de la Musica, Valencia; Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Madrid; Coliseo de Recreous, Lisbon; Talchunderhalle, Frankfurt/Hoescht; Meistersingerhalle, Nurnberg; and Festhalle, Landau - Martyn Jones) 8
Early 1980s - Symphony No 4 / Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin concert - Michael Schaffer) 8
April 1990 - Symphony No 3 (1877 Version Ed. Leopold Nowak (with Scherzo coda)) / Staatskapelle Dresden [59:11] DG 431 684-2 3,6
10, 11, 16, 19 January 1991 - Symphony No 4 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Concerts at Philharmonie, Cologne; Musikhalle, Hamburg; Brucknerhalle, Linz; and Royal Festival Hall, London - Martyn Jones) 8
14 May 1991 - Symphony No 4 / Philharmonia Orhestra (Teatro Verdi, Florence - Martyn Jones) 8
16 September 1991 - Symphony No 8 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Brucknerhalle, Linz - Martyn Jones and Massimiliano Wax) 8
September 1991 - Symphony No 7 (1885 Eds. Gutmann [1885], Leopold Nowak [1954] (with percussion)) / Staatskapelle Dresden [64:57] DG 435 786-2 (1996 Penguin Guide ***) 3,6
6, 12, 13 March 1992 - Symphony No 7 / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Concerts in Japan - John F Berky) 8
1992 - Symphony No 4 / Staatskapelle Dresden [68:30] (John F Berky) 8
19 September 1993 - Symphony No 4 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Royal Festival Hall, London - Martyn Jones) 8
17 September 1994 - Symphony No 3 / Philharmonia Orchestra (Brucknerhaus, Linz - Martyn Jones) 8
December 1994 - Symphony No 8 (1890 Version by Bruckner and Josef Schalk Ed. Leopold Nowak [1955]) / Staatskapelle Dresden [85:51] DG 447 744-2 3,5,6
1994 - Symphony No 4 / Staatskapelle Dresden [70:10] (John F Berky) 8
29 May 1996 - Symphony No 5 / Staatskapelle Dresden (Vienna Musikverein concert - Michael Schaffer)8
30 May 1996 - Symphony No 4 / Staatskapelle Dresden (Vienna Musikverein concert - Michael Schaffer)8
March 1997 - Symphony No 9 (1894 Original version (3 movts) Ed. Leopold Nowak [1951]) / Staatskapelle Dresden [61:51] DG 457 587-2 4,6
9 March 1999 - Symphony No 5 (1878 Ed. Leopold Nowak [1951]) / Staatskapelle Dresden [76:37] DG 460 527-2 (2001 Penguin Guide Rosette) 4

The source of concert information is in italics at the end of each entry. Any corrections or additional information would be most welcome. The author’s email address is

(1) Symphony version data extracted from John F Berky's website (
(2) Aircheck (Noise Reduction) recording of BBC March 20, 1987 live broadcast from the Royal Festival Hall, London
(3) Studio recording at Lukaskirche Dresden
(4) Edited recording from live performances at Semperoper Dresden
(5) Double CD coupled with Richard Strauss Metamorphosen
(6) Currently out of print
(7) Recording/s known to exist
(8) Not known whether recording/s exist/s

References, further reading and multimedia resources
Anderson Colin (2001), New Releases - "Live" Recordings, The Bruckner Journal, Vol 5 No 2, July, pp4-5
Angeli Franco, Giuseppe Sinopoli - Wagner o la musica degli affetti (a cura di Pietro Bria e Sandro Cappelletto)
Berky John F, Anton Bruckner Symphony Versions Discography (
Bragg Keith (2001), A personal tribute by Keith Bragg, Chairman of the Philharmonia Orchestra (
Bridle Marc, Giuseppe Sinopoli: 1946-2001, Classical Music on the Web (
Cannavo Alessandro (1993), La Staatskapelle di Dresda, Corriere della Sera, 13 aprile (
Cavallotti Enrico (2008), Giuseppe Sinopoli, Frantumi di un libro mancato, 13 Gennaio (
Clements Andrew (2001), The radiant way, The Guardian, April 27
Di Gennaro Carmelo (2000), L'Anello - allegoria del capitalismo, Il Sole 24 Ore, 30 luglio
Duffie Bruce (1986), Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli - A conversation with Bruce Duffie held in Chicago on September 1, 1986 (
DW-TV (2000a), The Philosopher on the Podium: Giuseppe Sinopoli and the Dresden Staatskapelle (13 February broadcast - video available on Yahoo OperaShare)
DW-TV (2000b), An Opera House da Capo: The Saxton Staatsoper Dresden (20 August broadcast)
EMI (1999), Open-air Gala Concert at the Dresden Semper Oper, Staatskapelle Dresden conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli (11 July video D79-DVD1339 - some extracts are available on
Fertonani Cesare (1993), Schonberg e Bruckner, Corriere della Sera, 28 aprile (
Foletto Angelo (1991), Intervista a Giuseppe Sinopoli, un direttore scomodo, Musica Viva Anno XV n.7, luglio (
Gantz Jeffrey (1999), Anton Bruckner's Last Judgement Ninth Symphony, Apocalypse Now, The Boston Phoenix, July 19 (
Giuseppe Sinopoli Festival, TaorminaArte Web Television ( (featuring extensive footage of Sinopoli including talks, interviews, concert extracts and other interesting information)
Griffiths Paul (1987), Dense Bruckner / Review of 'Philharmonia'-Sinopoli at the Festival Hall, The Times, 21 March
Grossman Karin and Kasselt Rainer (2001), Der Tod Orchestergraben, sz-online, 23 April (
Hall Alexander (2001), Philharmonia Orchestra - Guestbook Talkback, 23 April, Bruckner: Symphony No. 5, (
IMA (2002), Giuseppe Sinopoli Dreampaths of Music: From the Rhine to the Nile (90min DVD movie)
JMH, hi-fi+ Classical and Audiophile Music Review archive - Issue 8 (
Khalona Ramon and Griegel Dave (2002), The 2001 Bruckner Marathon, The Bruckner Journal, Vol 6 No 1, March, pp19-22
Kozinn Allan (2001), Giuseppe Sinopoli, Intense and Physical Conductor, Dies at 54 After Collapsing Onstage, New York Times, April 23 (
Lenzi Riccardo (2001a), Intervista a Giuseppe Sinopoli, una bacchetta scomoda, L'Espresso, 24 aprile (
Lenzi Riccardo (2001b), Grandi Maestri / La Scomparsa di Giuseppe Sinopoli, la bacchetta scomoda, L'Espresso, 3 maggio, pp68-69
MDR German TV (1998), 450th Anniversary of the Dresden Staatskapelle (in German), Fritz Busch Series No 3 (
Markl Ewald (2001), Giuseppe Sinopoli In Memoriam, DGG - News, Hamburg April 25
March Ivan (ed), Greenfield Edward and Layton Robert (1996 and 2001), The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs, Penguin Books
Matassi Elio (2003), Anima e esattezza: la figura intellettuale di Giuseppe Sinopoli, Hortus Musicus No 13, Gennaio-Marzo
Melliug 22000 (2008), Schubert 10 (Andante) by Sinopoli / Berlin PO – An anticipation of Bruckner and Mahler, April 12, OperaShare
Morrison Richard (1991), Maestro behind the myths, The Times, 18 September
NHK (2000), Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting Beethoven Ninth Symphony with Staatskapelle Dresden and Japanese choir in Japan (16 January - video available on Yahoo OperaShare)
NHK (2001), Mahler 2 Sinopoli / Philharmonia Orch 16.1.1987 Suntory Hall Tokyo concert video (including interviews in Italian and German), OperaShare upload message
Nice David (2001), Giuseppe Sinopoli: Italian composer and conductor whose analytical approach to masterpieces led to a love-hate relationship with the British public and critics, The Guardian, April 23
Osborne Richard (1991 and 1996), Gramophone Reviews of Sinopoli Bruckner Symphonies (
Palermi Valeria, Intervista a Giuseppe Sinopoli, un artista diviso in quattro (
Planet Interview, Interview with Giuseppe Sinopoli (in German) (
Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), Sinopoli dirige l'orchestra sinfonica nazionale della RAI (with audio extracts), Opere alla RAI (
Rodoni Laureto, Giuseppe Sinopoli in Memoriam (Website a cura di Laureto Rodoni) (
Schmidt Felix (1995), Interview with Giuseppe Sinopoli (in German), Welt am Sonntag, Nr 11 and 12, Seite 73, 12 and 19 March
Sinopoli Giuseppe (1984), Dream and Memory in Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’, DG Masters 445 514-2 cover booklet notes pp 2-3
Sinopoli Giuseppe (2002), Parsifal a Venezia - Prefazione di Cesare De Michelis, Marsilio-Collana: Gli specchi
Sinopoli Giuseppe (2006), Il Mio Wagner. Il racconto della Tetralogia di Giuseppe Sinopoli, ed. Sandro Cappelletto, Marsilio Editori, Venezia
Vitali Giovanni (2006), In Memoriam Giuseppe Sinopoli (una recensione alla Messa di Requiem di Verdi, l'ultima registrazione di Giuseppe Sinopoli, effettuata live alla Semperoper di Dresda il 13 e 14 aprile 2001, appena due mesi prima la prematura scomparsa), Tanti Affetti blog, 2 aprile (
Villatico Dino (2001), Con la sua musica visionaria interpretava la psiche umana, La Repubblica, 22 aprile (
Waller Patrick C (2006), Bruckner Symphony 4 Sinopoli 423 677-2, MusicWeb International, 6 July
Ward Ken (2001), Philharmonia Orchestra - Guestbook Talkback, 26 April
Ward Ken (2004), The Mysterious Case of the Sinopoli 6th, The Bruckner Journal, Vol 8 No 2, July, p8
ZDF (1986), Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting Mahler Fifth Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra London at Alten Oper Frankfurt, including interview and extracts of rehearsal sessions (video in German)

Translations from Italian by Martin Spiteri

Note: The author would like to thank Mr Ken Ward (The Bruckner Journal Editor), Mr John F Berky, Mr Martyn Jones (Archivist of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London), Mr Michael Schaffer, Prof Neil Schore, Dr Alexander Hall and Mr Massimiliano Wax for their kind assistance in assembling this survey.