Little visual evidence is necessary to reinforce the memory of Solti’s vitality and rhythmic attention to detail, but almost everything is nevertheless welcome. And the latest example to come my way is this performance from 1993, given at the Philharmonie in Gasteig in Munich. The programme conjoins Bruckner’s Third Symphony and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra plays with crisp sectional discipline under Solti’s watchful eye, constantly attentive to dynamic shaping and to Solti’s relatively taut conception of the Bruckner.
One of the most effective camera angles is from the back of the orchestra, slightly to Solti’s left, facing toward the conductor and audience beyond. It’s rather as if one were sitting right at the back desk of the fiddles, centrally seated. The director has a yen now and then to superimpose wind solos, although the horn principal is often as not given a single, full-face shot. Good panning shots allow one access to the technical security of the Bavarian orchestra. Concentration too on Solti allows one to see moments of passing felicity. At around nine minutes, pleased by a flute solo, a half-smile crosses the conductor’s face. The Solti mouth is often agape, at first, but assumes a tense fixity as the music develops. His characteristic bustling athletic style is still strongly in evidence – like a man conducting confined in a small box - but those familiar gestures are invariably directed toward a strong expressive and architectural goal. There is no needless languishing, though the music never sound harried.
His choreography is more explicit and Cubist in the Stravinsky – he has a particularly vivid way of cueing the pianist - and whilst the rhythmic profile is still taut, he has time to relax his raptor gaze and enjoy the music a little more than in the Bruckner. There’s a particularly engaging moment when he grins at the principal oboist and it’s clear throughout that he has considerable trust in - and admiration for - the orchestra. Technically, from a directing point of view, there is a very well prepared shot of the harp and piano together.
I did notice on my copy a ghostly ‘print-through’ during a flute passage in the first movement. At times, too, it seems that clarity of image is not quite 100%, though this small deficiency didn’t unduly trouble me.
How essential this will be depends on your affinity with the repertoire and also your intention to watch and re-watch this concert footage. I happen to be somewhat uncertain about my own interest in repeat viewing of such things – things that aren’t of historic significance, that is – so despite its many attractions, and a few brief technical deficiencies, I’m cautious about recommending it more enthusiastically than this. However for those partial to conductor and repertoire I would have no hesitation.
Previous review (2002 release):
Masterwork Index: Bruckner