BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (2007)

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (2007)

Performers: Franz Welser-Möst conducts The Cleveland Orchestra in Vienna’s Musikvereinssaal
Studio: EuroArts/Medici Arts 2056848
Video: 16:9 widescreen color
Audio: DTS 5.1; DD 5.1; PCM Stereo
No Region Coding
Extras: Introduction by Franz Welser-Möst
Length: 64 minutes (Introduction: 18 minutes)
Rating: *****

This is not a run-of-the-mill classical music video by any means. The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the Big Five of American symphony orchestras – in spite of the smaller size of Cleveland vs. the other four metropolitan areas. They have continued their major status established years ago by George Szell, under their current (since 2002) Music Director Franz Welser-Möst.  It was already quite an honor for the orchestra to be invited to perform in Vienna’s “Golden Hall,” but add to that the fact that Bruckner’s new symphony was originally given its world premiere performance in that very ornate hall, and you have a very special occasion.

The introduction (in German with subtitles) by the conductor is very useful in setting the stage for hearing this massive work – the composer’s final symphonic statement. Welser-Möst discusses the influences and quotations from Wagner thruout the symphony, and its heartfelt expression dealing with the themes of both love and death.  He also marvels over the wide extent of historical musical styles incorporated by Bruckner into the symphony – including from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, as well as harmonic writing that was not heard again until Alban Berg.  One aspect will probably be evident to most listeners; I would think even more so to first-time Bruckner newbies – and that would be minimalism.  Bruckner never went too far (as some minimalists today often do); he had a similar ability to Mozart’s in knowing exactly then to relieve the repetition for the best effect.

The orchestra plays magnificently, and Welser-Möst gives sharp definition to some of the work’s giant structural parts that are often neglected by others.  The live recording/videotaping was done during performance just last October.  The Musikvereinssaal is highly ornate but can be seen in the long shots from the rear as basically one of those shoebox-shaped halls that has such perfect acoustics.  The visual coverage is the most varied and interesting I have yet seen in a symphony orchestra video.  The mix of closeups of single musicians and long shots of the orchestra vs. closeups of the conductor is just right.  Some of the angles are quite amazing – one of them a shot from literal floor level upwards onto two of the doublebassists, with some of the other bassists in the background.  The depth of field is excellent and this is probably the highest definition standard concert DVD I have ever viewed.  The 16:9 format seems as vital in these concert films as in feature movies.  It is difficult to see how Blu-ray could be very much better.  The DTS surround is also enveloping and – unlike most video soundtracks – would not suffer in comparison with a SACD recording of the symphony.  In every way, this is a first rate music DVD!

 – John Sunier

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