It's rare when a comparatively seasoned record collector buys, within a single month, two superlative Bruckner recordings he or she did not know (the other is Wand's live 6th on Profil - probably the finest in stereo beside Bongartz). Feeling truly blessed!
One may need a full run-through to get used to the string tone (I did, but then I immediately noticed the performance's benefits - it's not as if the string tone were distractive, it's just different). They do not sound rough (perhaps a bit rustic and as such fitting) but simply don't have e.g. the Vienna Philharmonic's glow (perhaps best appreciated in Böhm's 1976 live 7th on Andante, a performance that to me emphasizes the sheer beauty and luxuriousness of Bruckner's 7th). Nor do we get the emotional buildup if not quasi-religious zealousness of Giulini (in e.g. the Adagio). What we have here may ultimately be even more interesting (especially of course to those who figure to "have heard it all" - which I'll quickly admit I don't have): perfectly judged tempo relations, wonderful transparency, a unique emphasis on those Brucknerian counterlines (not sure if the term is correct English or a Germanism of mine - if so, please feel free to correct me!), a wealth of detail especially in the wind playing. A singularly lyrical, detail-obsessed yet always flowing live performance that grips one's attention from beginning to end. No flagging of concentration in the latter two movements whatsoever! In fact, the Scherzo is almost tumultous for the then 82-years-old Böhm, as is the finale sprightly and powerful. Seriously now: this may be the most intense music-making I've ever heard from the conductor! There is so much going on here that elsewhere simply goes unnoticed. Wow! Imagine: to have been there and heard this in person...
Been listening to this for days now, comparing it to Böhm's 1976 live 7th on Andante, now planning to compare it to Rosbaud's 1957 studio recording (Vox Turnabout, best heard on CD on ZYX - my reference Bruckner 7th) and Giulini's 1982 LOP live performance (BBC Legends - which I have come to prefer to the VPO studio recording mainly due to the latter two movements). Not that I have any doubt: Böhm's 1977 live performance is right up there (my gut instinct suggests it may end up becoming my second favourite of all (along with Giulini's LPO live performance) - and it is a true alternative, as such irreplaceable!), so incredibly gripping and convincing one must wonder why the heck it was buried in an archive all these years... On top of it all, it may offer the best tradeoff in terms of sound quality of all my favourite Bruckner 7ths (along with Rosbaud's inevitable studio recording, now that the ZYX remastering is available).
Greetings from Switzerland, David.