BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 6 cond. by Barenboim, Blu-ray (2014)

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 6, Blu-ray (2014)

Performers: Staatskapelle Berlin/ Daniel Barenboim
Studio: Accentus Music/ Unitel Classica (1/28/14) [Distributed by Naxos]
Video: for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: DTS 5.1 Master Audio, PCM Stereo
Length: 58:51
Rating: ****

The Bruckner Symphony No. 6 in A major is not an oft-performed work. It was never given a full performance during Bruckner’s life, yet it remains an accessible and interesting work, so I listened to this new Blu-ray concert performance with interest. The work was finally premiered in full with Gustav Mahler conducting in1899 in Vienna. Bruckner had died 3 years before.

People complain that this symphony is fragmented and not unified, but it was a sign of Bruckner’s experiments with the symphonic form. Heard today, the work seems more coherent that it did to listeners a century ago.

This Blu-ray disc is a complete concert before a live audience in 2010. It’s not a ‘Pure-audio’ disc with no video that is coming into favor. Conductor Daniel Barenboim offers an emotional and in-control performance with the Staatskapelle Orchestra of Berlin. I tend to prefer hearing performances before a live audience rather than a highly edited studio recording. In my view, the audience gives the performers a lift that sometimes doesn’t happen in the studio.

There is nothing really innovative about the way the video is directed, but on the other hand, there is nothing that detracts from the performance. The 1080p picture is bright and detailed, with the lighting reduced on the audience so as not to distract. The audio is excellent. There is the option of a DTS Master Audio 5.1 mix, and a PCM stereo option. I listened to the 5.1 mix. The orchestra was up front, spread between the left and right speakers. I use a phantom center channel. The rears were used minimally for ambience. I found the audio revealing and natural, without having undue spotlighting of instruments that can happen when a recording strives for exaggerated separation and instrumental close ups. I could detect no aggravating audience noise, sometimes a problem with live performances.

The disc contains chapter stops for the 4 movements, but no commentary from conductor Barenboim and no history lessons. No complaints there. I’d just rather put the disc in the tray and hear the music.

The Symphony No. 6 is a worthwhile stop along the Bruckner symphonic cycle. It is flawlessly performed, and worth repeated listening.

—Mel Martin

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