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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
Staatskapelle Dresden / Christian Thielemann
Sound format: DVD: DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Picture: 16:9, HD
Booklet: English, German, French
rec. live 24 May 2015, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
C MAJOR 733308 DVD

Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden have made several video recordings of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies. Their performances of Bruckner’s Symphonies Nos. 5, 7 and 8 have appeared on the C Major label over the past few years. The latest to appear on the same label is one of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, filmed live at the 2015 Baden-Baden Whitsun Festival.

Anton Bruckner did not live to complete his Ninth Symphony. At his death, the last movement was incomplete, leaving us only three completed movements. There have been various attempts at completing the symphony, but most conductors perform the first three completed movements only. In this performance, Christian Thielemann and Staatskapelle Dresden play the Alfred Orel edition of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, with the three completed movements.

The seating arrangement of the stringed sections of the orchestra for this performance would have been familiar to Bruckner – first and second violins on the opposite sides of stage, celli on the inside left with double basses behind them, and violas on the inside right. The nine horns, eight in the score plus an additional assistant principal or “bumper”, are seated in two rows, next to the oboes and the bassoons.

The playing of the orchestra is glorious, with excellent contributions from all departments. I feel that in quieter passages, the woodwinds are a little too prominent relative to the strings. I am not sure if that was the actual balance at the concert, or a result of microphone placement or post processing. In particular, in the opening of the Scherzo, the woodwind chord is too prominent relatively to the pizzicato strings, making the latter not clearly audible.

Thielemann’s pacing of the first two movements is good. The third movement is played a touch too slow, thus depriving the music some of its tension.

The camerawork is good, with instruments suitably highlighted at the right moments. I have only viewed the standard DVD and cannot comment on the picture quality of the Blu-ray version. The notes are by Tobias Niederschlag and come in English and French translations alongside the original German (two-pages each).

There is no shortage of recordings of Bruckner’s Symphony No.9. Among DVDs alone, there are two by Herbert von Karajan as well as versions by Leonard Bernstein, Gunter Wand and a few others. This latest version is good while not displacing any of the current top recommendations. The Blu-ray version, however, should have an advantage over the older offerings regarding picture quality.

Wai Kit Leung



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