It's rare for a conductor, however prestigious, to manage two Bruckner CDs at once. Mariss Jansons has the advantage of leading the Royal concertgebouw, which has a house label, and the Bavarisn Radio Sym. Orch., which has managed the trick of having a Sony BMG contract (no doubt subsidized). with the Concertgebouw he has released a polished but tepid pairing of the Bruckner Third and Fourth. Here in Munich we get the Seventh by itself. A leopard doesn't change its spots by getting on a jet and flying a few hundred miles. The opening of the seventh, one of the most gloriously unfolding melodies in classical music, falls flat: no mystery, tension, anticipation, just a seamless lyrical song sung in a monotone.
The Gramophone loved Janson's third and Fourth, so I am braced to be told that my taste is fallible. All I can do is to prepare any prospective buyer for a smooth, beautifully played, and very tame interpretation. The Bavarian musicians can't be faulted for technique; the brass blend beautifully, the strings exhibit impeccable ensemble. But who cares? If music can't be dramatized, it hasn't fulfilled its potential, and the Bruckner Seventh has enormous built-in drama that is being completely flattened by Janson's gentility and caution. Even the relatively cautious Abbado on DG is on fire by comparison, and when we speak of truly great Bruckner Sevenths from Karajan, Giulini, and Furtwangler, this new recording is completely outclassed. Tempos are all middle of the road; the overall timing of 65 min. streamlines the music compared to Karajan's stately 69 min. but dawdles compared to Harnoncourt's 60 min. -- the latter turns in a memorable reading, as does Chailly on Decca.
In sum, this is Bruckner for those who want to hear his music once over lightly, but not for me.