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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



DVD REVIEW

 


BRUCKNER: Symphony No.3 in D minor
STRAVINSKY
: Symphony in three movements
Filmed in 1993, Philharmonie am Gasteig, Munich
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti Director: Hugo Käch

ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 320 [89 minutes]



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DVD booklets generally seem to supply duff information or not enough and be generally thoughtless. Bruckner 3 is an edition-minefield of a symphony. Any self-respecting Brucknerian needs to know the version being played. The only help the booklet (not the outside cover) gives is to say 1877. That’s something – but whose edition? OK, Solti recorded Bruckner symphonies for Decca in Chicago – a mixed bag – and he used 1877/Nowak for No.3. As he does here – Nowak (unlike Oeser) ignored Bruckner’s request that the coda to the ‘Scherzo’ be suppressed. You won’t find this information in the booklet, although the notes do refer to the 1873 original and the second revision of 1889.

Only the year of 1993 is documented for these filmed performances. "Two live concerts" reports the English note; I think it’s one concert – there’s no reason why these very different symphonies can’t go together (Solti played the Stravinsky with Bruckner 4 at a LSO concert).

So, two symphonies requiring listening to … what use the film? Well, there are examples of images dissolving one to the other, which I find irritating. Otherwise, there’s a lot of focus on Solti – rightly so, love or hate him he was a presence and an individual – and close-ups of solo players and broader shots of the whole orchestra.

Both performances are impressive, if somewhat compromised by rather uningratiating sound (the Bruckner more so), which is partly Solti himself in loud passages – brass sometimes too dominant and suggesting a capacity for laceration. Bruckner 3 is at its best earlier on. Solti’s majestic account of the first movement has much lyrical import and sensitive playing and his patience with the music is admirable. The opening of the slow movement is lovingly shaped … yet the remaining movements can be over-emphatic; a shame, for the ‘Scherzo’ is also excitingly punchy. The dance elements (‘Trio’, and the second-subject jig of the ‘Finale’) are well paced but lack natural buoyancy. The symphony’s ultimate peroration is rather grandiose if well received. This is the same hall where Celibidache gave so many wonderful Munich Philharmonic concerts; his Bruckner (EMI) a (sound)world apart from Solti’s.

When I first heard Solti conduct Stravinsky’s masterly symphony (the LSO concert previously mentioned), I was surprised as to how deliberate he was with it – more to Klemperer than to Colin Davis (I’m thinking of the latter’s first, LSO, recording). Having been disappointed with Solti’s Chicago/Decca recording of it, it’s gratifying that this Bavarian Radio one is so good. Just occasionally Solti forces details, but his rhythmic alacrity and emotional response make a charismatic combination. The concertante piano and harp are always audible and, visually, well in shot. Solti’s incisive account allows no sagging, his moderate tempos bringing clarity but no lack of heft – this is a gritty and determined account that ranks with the best available. Its precision and pungency might surprise Solti’s detractors.

If my response has been primarily that of a listener, I must also mention that the pictures do give welcome insights – not least Solti smiling at players when things go well and the orchestra-view of his mix of control and involvement … and those eyes, the eyes of someone who knew what he wanted and was determined to get it.

Colin Anderson


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