Welser-Most has been supported by a major Upper Austrian bank for over 25 years now as a cultural envoy. This level of support suggests that Welser-Most has something special to offer in terms of Austrian music especially. Those who know his recent Summer Night's Gala or the 2011 New Year's Day concert with the VPO will be aware that he can produce very lively responses from his orchestra too. Bruckner's music is one of his specialities and this recording is one of several symphonies already issued recently.
On this occasion I chose to watch the bonus feature first. In this Welser-Most initially describes the performing characteristics of the Musikverein's acoustics. He then focusses in on his views relating to Bruckner generally and then to the 9th symphony in particular. I found this 16 minute bonus feature interesting both in its own right and as a useful insight into the performance as recorded here.
This 2007 recording is a performance of the only version of this uncompleted 3 movement symphony and it is given a performance of considerable splendour. The description of 'Cathedrals in sound' is easy to comprehend here. In the bonus feature Welser-Most makes it clear how this last symphony of Bruckner was conceived in terms of Bruckner's own anticipated death occupying the final few years of his life. Welser-Most sees it as a dialogue with God coupled with a painful exploration of the meaning of love. He also sees the work as being ahead of its time both harmonically and rhythmically. The conductor certainly comes over as a dedicated Bruckner enthusiast offering considerable knowledge and insight.
I like this interpretation very much indeed and this respect has grown over several viewings. I would view Welser-Most's performance as typically having a very clear long-term view of structure held under tight control but driven by a deeply held conviction. The climaxes are massive but this is balanced by considerable moments of delicacy. This is typical of his interpretations of the other symphonies in this developing cycle of recordings and in these respects he is well served by the Cleveland orchestra.
I note the use of rotary valved brass instruments. These have different tonal characteristics compared to the normal valved brass instruments found in the US and most of Western Europe and Russia and they suit European music of this period very well. They have rapidly spread out from the Vienna and Berlin orchestras where they are standard for all classical music and are now in regular use as far away as Stockholm.
The recording benefits from crisp imaging and sympathetic camera work. It also benefits from excellent and wide-ranging sound which is presented in DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 and stereo.
This is a fine addition to the Bruckner recordings made by Welser-Most and the Cleveland orchestra. As such it should give considerable satisfaction to Brucknerites and therefore it seems to be well worth a full 5 star rating.
on 10 April 2014
I admire the conductor Franz Welser Most, he is beautiful to watch, and having seen him speaking at a meeting with people connected to the orchestra, on getting young people interested in joining and taking up an instrument, see on you tube.