Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 - Thielemann
Profil PH10031 (2 discs)
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
Christian Thielemann (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - July 12, 2010
Profil are to be congratulated for the release of this stunning live recording of Bruckner’s monumental 8th Symphony on SACD. It was taped by MDR Figaro, the arts radio channel of Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk, on the 14th September 2009 and represents not only a memento of an important occasion for the Dresden Staatskapelle, but one that subsequently resulted in the appointment of Christian Thielemann as the orchestra’s new music director from September 2010. The events leading up to this memorable concert throw some light on the incredibly thrilling music making captured on these two SACDs.
Early in September 2009 Fabio Luisi announced, at short notice, that due to illness he would not be able to conduct this second Staatskapelle symphony concert. Luisi had already stated his intention not to renew his contract with the orchestra beyond 2012 when he is due to become General Music Director of the Zurich Opera. A frantic search for a replacement found Christian Thielemann who, having conducted a series of performances of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth just two weeks earlier, was on holiday. At Thielemann’s own request Bruckner’s 8th Symphony was chosen for this concert.
Christian Thielemann’s empathy with Bruckner is already well known from a very expansive, yet absolutely riveting CD recording of the 5th Symphony on DGG and an equally fine coupling of the 4th and 7th symphonies on DVD. On both those recordings Thielemann conducted the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, but here with the Dresden Staatskapelle on blistering form there is an extra special frisson. Thielemann as a traditionalist, in the line of great Bruckner interpreters from Fürtwangler and Jochum to Karajan, Wand and Haitink, uses the Robert Haas (1939) edition of the score rather than the later one by Leopold Nowak (1955). The differences between these two editions are not huge, but it is the Haas that even today is the one most widely favoured by conductors both in the concert hall and on disc.
Thielemann’s interpretation of this symphony is utterly convincing and fully captures the majesty of Bruckner’s creation. It impresses as being completely thought through from start to finish, and the tempi that he adopts in each of the four movements seem to me ideal. He has complete understanding of the architecture of this symphony and total command of the music’s essential ebb and flow that allows the work to breathe. What is in some way even more remarkable is the manner in which the Staatskapelle respond to his direction. It is hard to believe that this is a single performance with no opportunities for re-takes; such is the dedication and concentration of the orchestra throughout the work’s 82-minute span. (Timings are I 15’45” II 15’52” III 27’09” IV 23’22” *).
* The booklet timing of 24’51” for the finale includes the applause
Profil have sensibly put the symphony’s first three movements on the first disc, giving the listener time to recover from the intensity of the profound slow movement before the blazing opening of the finale on disc 2. It would take too long to detail the many the felicities and insights of Thielemann’s performance, but suffice it to say that for this listener this is a Bruckner 8th to cherish.
The sound quality the engineers have achieved in the Semperoper is equally amazing. The sense of a large acoustic space is palpable even before the first note is played, while the burnished brass and rich string sound, particularly at the low-end, has been captured in a way that one would not have thought possible in a live concert. The presence of an audience is virtually undetectable until the end of the work and, presumably thanks to Thielemann, the applause only breaks out after a full six-second silence.
The double CD-case contains a lavish 37-page booklet in German and English that includes not only full-colour photographs of the concert, but also one of a smiling Thielemann signing his new contract with the Saxon Minister for Science and the Arts.
This auspicious release marks what one fervently hopes will be a fruitful relationship between Christian Thielemann and the Dresden Staatskapelle, and on both sonic and musical grounds deserves an unqualified recommendation.
Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net