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Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Verborgenheit (orch. Joseph Marx) [1:38]
Er ist’s (orch. Wolf) [1:21]
Elfenlied (orch. Günter Raphael) [1:52]
Anakreons Grab (orch. Wolf) [2:55]
Mignon, 2nd version (orch. Wolf) [6:23]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Befreit, Op. 39, No. 4 [5:28]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 in E major (Robert Haas edition) [70:13]
Renée Fleming (soprano)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann
rec. live, 1 September 2012, Semperoper, Dresden, Germany
Video Director: Henning Kasten
Picture: 1080i HD/16:9
Sound: 24/48 LPCM stereo/ dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
Region code: All Regions
No Subtitles
Booklet includes sung German texts with English and French translations
OPUS ARTE OABD7127D [106:00]

This marvellous Opus Arte release is the film of Christian Thielemann’s inaugural concert as music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden on 1 September 2012. Filmed at their beautiful Semperoper home in Dresden the concert was a spectacular event which included a stunning performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.
 
I’m not sure how often Wolf’s Orchestral Lieder are played in concert but to have a soprano as eminent and as popular as Renée Fleming performing them was quite a coup for the Staatskapelle Dresden. Of the five Wolf Lieder Verborgenheit was orchestrated by Joseph Marx. Elfenlied is heard in an orchestration by Günter Raphael and Er ist’s, Anakreons Grab and Mignon are as prepared by the composer. Robed in a stunning strapless gown the glamorous Fleming with her gracious demeanour certainly has an appealing stage presence. Undoubtedly the creamy voice of this experienced Indiana-born soprano has the ability to bewitch. Her smooth, fluid tone and immaculate control is unerring as demonstrated to perfection in the dramatic Er ist’s (Spring is here) and the moving Anakreons Grab (Anacreon’s Grave). I also enjoyed Elfenlied (Elf-song), such a fine vehicle for displaying her agreeable good humour. For her encore Fleming sang Strauss’s moving setting of Befreit (Released/Liberated). I love the way she breathes such absorbing emotion into Dehmel’s text. Strauss’s gloriously rich orchestration sounds magnificent; in truth it is a substantial improvement in that respect over the Wolf songs. Fleming couldn’t have asked for more sympathetic orchestral support.
 
The city of Dresden first experienced the music of Bruckner in 1885 with a performance of the Symphony No. 3. Towards the end of the composer’s life the Dresden Hofkapelle, the forerunner of the Staatskapelle, started to play Bruckner’s music. This began a long and auspicious tradition. A pinnacle of the Austro-German symphonic tradition Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 premièred in 1883 experienced less revision than most of the symphonies. Thielemann here chooses to perform the Robert Haas edition.

Thielemann adopts his usual perceptively direct approach and this assists in establishing a compelling sense of occasion in the Semperoper. The interpretation however feels spacious with a natural intensity that serves to emphasise the grandeur of the writing. Everything is held together with complete assurance and the tempi feeling judicious as do the astutely terraced dynamics. The deep and voluminous instruments of the Staatskapelle, the cellos and basses, are remarkable, providing a firm foundation for the rest of the orchestra.
 
In the opening movement one immediately notices the full, purposeful sound with the splendour of the Dresden brass shining through. The strings reveal a brilliant body. The high strings just glow with wonder in the gloriously dignified writing of the great Adagio. Here I am struck by the impressive sound of the four Wagner tubas. The astonishingly powerful climax is highly moving and is followed by that episode of deep spirituality producing a state of near stillness. In the decidedly compelling and radiant Scherzo it is easy to sense the freshness of verdant Alpine valleys. Thielemann intensifies the tension and evokes the unease of an imminent storm. The Finale feels like a contest between the reverence of the chorale and the potency of forceful drama. Taut and organised, the Staatskapelle produce a remarkable sound. Thielemann has such confidence in his players that, at one point, he drops his hands and lets them continue on their own. The applause is substantial with the majority of the audience getting to their feet acknowledging such stunning musicianship from a world class orchestra. Thielemann, who never looks comfortable with all the bowing and bouquets of flowers, is called back to the podium time and time again.
 
Director Henning Kasten does a splendid job with this live concert which is impressively filmed in High Definition. The camera-work inside the Semperoper is highly effective and beautifully shot revealing good detail and a vivid colour palette. Kasten ensures that the foremost orchestral solos are captured with the camera not staying too long in one place. To ensure viewer engagement there is plenty of shot variety between conductor, orchestra, soloist, hall and audience. The sound quality of the audio formats feels excellent providing a satisfying ambience, a mid-orchestra sound perspective and revealing significant detail.
 
There are no subtitles available on this Opus Arte, Blu-ray release, however, the booklet does contain full sung texts in German with English and French translations. There is also a fairly concise essay. The tracks are listed but not indexed.
 
On Blu-Ray this beautifully filmed and recorded live performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 under Christian Thielemann is worthy of special praise.
 
Michael Cookson 

Previous review (DVD): John Quinn

Masterwork Index : Bruckner symphony 7


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