> Sacre documentary / Bruckner Symphongy 9 /Knappertsbusch tribuyte

STRAVINSKY Le sacre du printemps - A film by Peter Rump

Birgit Nilsson, soprano. Wilhelm Kempff, piano. Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Hans Knappertsbusch, cond.

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
Dresden statskapelle Orch/Christian Thielemann, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 66.min

Peter Rumps film documentary always is fascinating, as far as it goes. It features conductor Valery Gergiev discussing the score in detail as he rehearses it with the Mariinsky Orchestra. Often we have clips from historic archive videos including several where we see Stravinsky discussing his music. It is fascinating to see and hear Stravinsky discussing this work. We also have brief excerpts from ballet performances. Also appearing briefly are conductor Pierre Boulez and pianist Alexander Toradze (who has made a transcription of the work for solo piano).Copyright date on this film is 1999. It is a pleasure to see Gergiev in such a relaxed mood talking about music he loves. The one major omission here is a complete performance of this masterpiece. There is plenty of room on the DVD, and they easily could have included Gergiev's Marinsky performance, mentioned on this site (REVIEW).

This "Tribute to Hans Knappeertsbusch" really is just a repackaging of performances previously issued. That program in Theater an der Wien May 21, 1963, consisted of the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde (with Birgit Nilsson), and music of Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3 and Piano Concerto No. 4 (with Wilhelm Kempff). Important performances, indeed, and of great historic interest. Now we have a dubious "bonus," the other work on the concert, Act I of Die Walküre, with Claire Watson as Sieglinde, Fritz Uhl as Siegmund and Josef Greindl as Hunding with Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic. This performance doesn't amount to much except for the orchestra and conductor. Claire Watson is excellent as Sieglinde,Josef Greindl a menacing Hunding, but Fritz Uhl surely is not in top form. He had an impressive career singing major Wagner roles at Bayreuth for some years (there was a shortage of true heldentenors at the time), and even sang Tristan to Birgit Nilsson's Isolde in Decca's Solti recording. This new issue is available on regular DVD and Blu Ray. Original sources were black and white film, mono sound, and there surely is no gain in quality on Blu Ray. If the Walküre interests you and you already own the previous issue, skip this one.

Christian Thielemann continues his impressive Bruckner cycle with this issue of Symphony No. 9. Two orchestras are involved. With the Munich Philharmonic we have Symphonies 4 and 7 (REVIEW.). He has also recorded Symphony No.7 with Dresden Staatskapelle (REVIEW), as well as Symphony, No. 5 (REVIEW) — and Symphony No. 8 (REVIEW). Thielemann at one time was music director of the Munich Philharmonic, and since 2013 has had that position with the Dresden Staaatskapelle.This orchestra has had a long association with music of Bruckner, having recorded all of the symphonies about four decades ago with Eugen Jochum on the podium. Thielemann also has conducted opera extensively and doesn't seem to object to modern concepts of opera. He led the Salzburg Festival non-production of Die Frau ohne Schatten (REVIEW). And he doesn't seem to be concerned about some of the Bayreuth Festival monstrosities; he now is Music Director of the Festival. However, all is back to normal with this superb Bruckner Nine, with the resplendent sound of the superb Dresden orchestra captured with uncommon richness, sonority and impact. This performance was filmed in the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden May 24, 2015There are many excellent videos of this symphony including versions by Bernstein, Barenboim, Celebidache, Wand and Karajan, but there is no question this new one is at the top of the list. And, of course, there are numeous CDs available with most major onductors, including the new Mariss Jansons/Concertgebouw issue.

R.E.B. (May 2015)