12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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Franz Welser-Möst had a rough start in Cleveland. After an initial burst of welcoming publicity (helped by his own insistence that people call him Franz rather than Maestro), some harsh reviews by a local critic led to some bad feelings - especially when that critic was reassigned by the local newspaper. Whether those reviews were wholly deserved is best left to another forum. But Welser-Möst's recording of Beethoven's 9th Symphony did not meet with universal acclaim.
I've heard the orchestra with Welser-Möst (as well as other conductors) many times over the years, and the general verdict here is that he has hit his stride. This DVD of Bruckner's 7th Symphony attests to that. Welser-Möst has clearly arrived at his own interpretation, which emphasizes the romantic (small "r") aspects of the music. The performance that emerges is less Teutonic and more flexible than usual. Parts of the work seem lighter than air, which is a departure from the norm in this repertoire - yet the Symphony's slow movement is not lacking in the customary gravitas. The orchestra's contribution is superb: the balance and transparency between sections is notable even for this group.
This DVD is a top-flight presentation both visually and sonically. The camera moves between the conductor, various orchestral sections, and the very photogenic Severance Hall in a manner that maintains visual interest without being distracting. The sound is transparent with just the right amount of reverberance - a rare achievement as it's not easy to record in Severance Hall, which often sounds better "in person" than on recordings. One small nit: the DVD defaults to the two channel soundtrack. If your system has surround, be sure to change it to the 5.1 option for a spectacular sonic experience. The DVD includes an engaging talk with Welser-Möst (in both English and German) where he explains how the thread of love runs through the Bruckner 7th, and Severance Hall itself.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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I don't live in Cleveland, so I don't know Welser-Möst as well as a devoted fan in Cleveland might. But, I've attended every one of his concerts at Carnegie Hall in the past 7 years, and have been moved and impressed, time and again, by his performances (a Shostakovich 7 and Beethoven 3 stand out in particular). And, I've been living with his Bruckner 5, 7, 8 and 9 dvd's for the past 6 months, in anticipation of his concerts here in New York, featuring those symphonies (and works of John Adams) which begin in two days. I don't even know where to begin in reviewing this performance of Bruckner 7.
I'm tempted to start with the brass section, which is simply electrifying, both in terms of power, but also in terms of subtlety and beauty. But, really, one must start with Welser-Möst. This man is a genius conductor. You may or may not care for his interpretations (I do, though his tempi are sometimes a bit on the fast side for me), but you must respect the depth and intelligence of his work. He knows this symphony inside and out, and the fact that he uses a score in this performance should not detract: he is so profoundly moved by this music, that I believe he uses the score simply as an anchor: he will not let this music, despite its power to do so, move him to the point where he is reduced to a puddle of tears and perspiration. He is desperately connected to this symphony, evidenced by the occasional camera shot of his face. One can see it. His every gesture, whether grand or miniscule, holds the performers in his grasp in a display of devotion I have only ever seen before in the performers of the Berlin Philharmonic to Karajan, or in the performers of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra to Abbado.
But, back to the brass section. When I was a kid, one of my prized LP's was a recording of the antiphonal music of Gabrieli, performed by the brass sections of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra. The Cleveland brass section was great then, in the 60's, and they are great now. This symphony has a Mozart orchestra-sized wind section (2 each), but the brass is rich: 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 Wagner tubas, and bass tuba. 15 vs. 8: brass win (but the wind playing in this performance is also sublime). You will search long and hard to find brass playing of such depth, elegance, richness and, yet, power.
I'd guess that the inspiration for the incredible brass playing (and, add to that, the incredible playing of the rest of the orchestra) lies in the power and mastery of Welser-Möst. He has a grip on this orchestra like Szell had on it, or like Solti had on Chicago or Karajan on Berlin. But his grip comes not authoritatively, but rather, at least in how it appears to me, through sensitivity. He's strong when he needs to be, but you don't really see strength, visually, in his performance. It's more a matter of connection. He's honest, and his players believe him. No emotion is contrived and nothing is done for effect; everything is felt, but it all starts with a supreme understanding of the architecture of this work. He builds this performance with a vision of the whole in his mind at all times, and the vision is epic.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
jose zarzo,principal horn ,orquesta filarmonica de gran canaria,spain
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brucners 7th symphony , played to perfection by one of the very finest orchestras in the world today. beautiful strings , magnificent winds , percusion and brass (specially principal hornist richard king and his great hornsection , principal trumpeter michael sachs and a very special thought to deceased co-principal trombonist steven witser) SPECTACULAR, BUY THIS DVD!!!!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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Welser-Most has been supported by a major Upper Austrian bank for over 25 years now as a cultural envoy. This level of support suggests that Welser-Most has something special to offer in terms of Austrian music especially. The sleeve note describes Welser-Most's trademarks as 'Calm and composure' and this is certainly true of his podium manner but not all is so calm beneath the exterior. Those who know his recent Summer Night's Gala or the 2011 New Year's Day concert with the VPO will also be aware that he can produce very lively responses from his orchestra too. So how is his Bruckner?
In his bonus interview, Welser-Most makes a case for linking this particular symphony to the music of Wagner, and particular Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. The link is through the tonality of E major, the themes associated with German Romanticism, the mutual admiration the two composers had for each other, the prominant use of Wagner tubas in this work and Wagner's death during the composition of this symphony. Welser-Most sees the Adagio and its climatic conclusion as the key moment when all of these influences come together.
I have grown to like this interpretation very much indeed over several viewings and in the context of knowing both the Abbado and Wand performances. Inevitably, given Welser-Most's views about the work as summarised above, a key moment in evaluating the emotional intensity of this issue comes at the climax of the very long slow movement which builds to an enormous peak. The effect on the conductor at this point is clear as he is clearly deeply moved. It is certainly very effective for the viewer too.
I would view Welser-Most's performance as typically having a very clear long-term view of structure held under tight control but driven by a deeply held conviction. The climaxes are massive but this is balanced by considerable moments of delicacy. The Cleveland orchestra is well able to deliver at this level and the concert is well recorded as sound with sympathetic camera work which is detailed without being invasive. Much the same comments can be made of Welser-Most's interpretations of Bruckner's 5th and 8th symphonies in the same series.
This is not the only way to play Bruckner. A more overtly emotional way can be experienced with Abbado at Lucerne, who also includes a fine performance of Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto with Brendel. That is well recorded too. A further alternative is the Gunther Wand performance but, for me, his recording is now too compromised to fully realise Bruckner's sound world which I find is better served by both Abbado and Welser-Most.
The imaging on this disc is crisp and clear as expected from an HD source with sympathetic camera work. The excellent sound is wide ranging and presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and stereo. There is a short bonus interview as mentioned previously.
This is a very fine disc and should win over many new listeners to Bruckner as well as being satisfying to current enthusiasts. It seems to me to therefore fully justify a 5 star rating.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
Thanks for the review, Mr. Giles.
I purchased the DVD after reading your review and have enjoyed my purchase - very much! Yes, this will serve as the perfect introduction to Bruckner's Seventh. Welser-Most's level-headed interpretation is somewhat lacking in "inspiration", but Celibidache, Knappertsbusch, Furtwangler et al are not for newcomers. The picture is pin sharp and the sound quality is excellent. And Severance Hall looks and sounds fantastic! A very enjoyable DVD, and it's a steal at the price.
Jeremy. (U.K. review)
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
J. K. Davis MD
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The Cleveland Orchsetra didn't have a great history recording Bruckner prior to the arrival of Welser-Most. The Bruckner and Mahler recordings were not highlights under the batons of Szell and Dohnanyi. Welser-Most has a love and reverance for Bruckner which his predecessors did not, and conducts a light and transparent performance. I like his recordings of Bruckner's 5th and 9th better than this one,
which while enjoyable doesn't clear the bar set by Karajan, Blomstedt and several others. Bruckner's 4th and 7th symphonies have deservedly been recorded dozens of times, and the competition is stiff. I'd like to see Welser-Most record the Bruckner
2nd, 3rd and 6th, to see what he would do with them, as there aren't that many good, much less great, recordings of those.