The Barenboim / Chicago Bruckner Cycle - The Long Strange Journey

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The Tower Records (Japan) release
In 1981, Deutsche Grammophone released their third Bruckner cycle on LP. The release (2740 253) featured Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This was the first Bruckner cycle featuring an American orchestra and the first cycle by Deutsche Grammophon to include the early Symphony in D Minor.

The First complete recorded cycle (1-9) to reach the public was Eugen Jochum’s pioneering DGG set with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. This was followed in short order by Philips’ cycle (0-9) with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Then came Herbert von Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic cycle on Deutsche Grammophon – their second set .

By 1980, the Schwann Catalog was no longer showing Jochum’s boxed set and by the mid 80’s, none of the three DGG sets were available in US stores. While many of the recordings were still available as individual releases, Haitink’s set was alone in the catalog. Of these four competing box sets, Barenboim’s set had the briefest availability. The Barenboim cycle was never actively marketed by DGG. Karajan was their international star and his releases always received top billing.

With the advent of the compact disc, much of the same process happened again. If one goes by catalog number, then the Barenboim cycle (now coupled with the Te Deum, Helgoland and the Psalm 150) was released in Europe first (429 025-2). It contained the same essay as the LP edition - “Between Tradition and the New Germans,” by Hans-Guenter Klein - plus texts for the choral works. This was quickly followed by the Jochum cycle (429 079-2) and finally the Karajan cycle (429 648-2). But while the Jochum and Karajan sets were generally available in the US, the Barenboim set was not. Collectors remembered seeing it briefly in some of the larger chain stores, but it was quickly gone. The Jochum and Karajan sets remained in print for many years and soon after they were withdrawn, they reappeared in the newer mini-box editons (Jochum – 469 810-2) (Karajan 477 7580) both of which are still available today.

However, from its initial release in the 1980’s until 2009, the Barenboim / Chicago Symphony Bruckner cycle - not to be confused with Barenboim’s later cycle (1-9) on Teldec with the Berlin Philharmonic – was out-of-print and gradually becoming a very rare collector’s item. Sets were selling on Ebay for several hundred dollars and even higher in Japan.

Then, in 2009, something unusual happened. Tower Records in Japan, as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations, issued the Barenboim cycle as a 10 CD boxed set as part of their Vintage Collection. The set was licensed from Universal Music and was offered exclusively in Tower Record’s Japan stores under their catalog number PROC-1026/35. The set, shown here, featured the artwork for the original CD set. Notes for the set were in Japanese only, but all disc information was available in English. But, once again, the US buyer (and now the rest of the world) was in a frustrating situation. Tower Record’s policy forbids the export of these Vintage Collection re-issues, so while they were available, they were extremely hard to obtain. Once again, Barenboim’s Bruckner cycle began to show up in this new guise on Ebay. helped collectors by having Japanese colleagues purchase the CD sets in bulk (and at retail) in Japan and had them shipped to the US where approximately 40 sets were sold before Tower Record’s stock was depleted.

In 2011, Deutsche Grammophon finally announced the first worldwide re-issue of the Barenboim cycle in over thirty years.