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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Slow, but cohesive interpretationsMay 21 2010
Gerhard P. Knapp
- Published on Amazon.com
The two symphonies were recorded 2006 and 2008 in the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, a venue familiar to those who know Michael Gielen's outstanding Beethoven cycle on DVD filmed there in part. The present recordings, just like Gielen's, are taken both from live performance (with audience) and dress rehearsal footage, the latter with a fairly empty hall. Apart from some fancy and distracting visuals (dual exposures etc.), the video is good, though by no means exceptional (it claims to have been filmed in High Definition), for today's standards. So is the audio (stereo preferable), which could be more transparent and immediate. The Münchner Philharmoniker play very well indeed for their music director, who at this time was still cherished, and there is some congenial exchange between conductor and musicians. Thielemann's tempi are exceedingly slow throughout, slower than Wand's and the other performances available on DVD, and slower than most on any medium, including Celibidache and Klemperer. Thielemann takes ca. 75 min. for the 4th and ca. 72 min. for the 7th. The latter is performed with the cymbal crash in the adagio, as it rightly should be according to the composer's instructions in the manuscript. I have listened to Bruckner's symphonies for decades as performed in the Klemperer-Jochum-Barenboim tradition, albeit often uneasy with the deliberate tempi and an overly reverent approach to what is, after all, secular music. Celibidache never convinced me. I find Skrowaczewski still impressive, Harnoncourt and Norrington very thought-provoking and refreshing. So much for my own Bruckner experience in a nutshell. Surprisingly, I was not consciously aware all the way of Thielemann's slow tempi when listening to these performances. The exceptions are the respective second and fourth movements in both symphonies, where I wish for slightly less attention to detail and more forward drive. However, the relative internal tempo relationships -- extremely important in Bruckner -- within these performances appear to be perfectly right, and the rest is a matter of personal taste. If you like to savor every note and every dynamic nuance in highly cohesive interpretations that thoughtfully re-invent the respective symphonic edifice step by step, this DVD is for you. If, on the other hand, you envision Bruckner as a "dramatic", occasionally dissonant and even proto-modernist composer with plenty of sharp edges, you should look elsewhere.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Impressive and serious interpretationsJuly 9 2012
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This is, on the face of it, a generous coupling of two of the most popular Bruckner symphonies. The recordings were made in 2006 (no. 7) and 2008 (no. 4). At that time Thielemann was the principal conductor of the orchestra and there is obviously a close understanding of his wishes which are carried out with total dedication.
These performances are serious in style with tempi that are generally on the slow side, although not excessively so. At the time of listening, this slowness is not as apparent as expected when simple playing times are noted. What is more apparent to me are the fluctuations of tempi within movements or sections. This is rather reminiscent of Jochum's style of conducting Bruckner from an earlier generation, but without his stronger forward pulse.
In general summary, in these performances there is a concentration on the detail rather than forward pulse. In addition much is made of pauses and silences to increase the sensation of tension.
For those who are familiar with Thielemann's recent Beethoven set I think it would be fair to say that this is a similar approach and may be typical of his approach to music generally.
I found this to be a satisfying experience and certainly another way of conducting Bruckner. Abbado, in his recording of 7, achieves greater transparency and flow while Wand is generally more forthright but is nowhere near as well recorded.
This recording offers a nice blend of detailed and general shots, but as a photographer, I can see evidence of lighting problems which has resulted in over-sharpened imaging and plenty of digital noise on Thielemann's face which is in shadow when facing the orchestra. This falls below the normally exalted standards of C Major. The sound however, is as excellent as usual and is presented in DTS and stereo.
I think it would be fair to assess this issue at 4 stars in view of the imaging reservations on a technical side and in view of the rather serious nature of the performances which, good though they are of their kind, will not be to everyone's liking.