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This generous Blu-ray release gives us the two most popular of Anton Bruckner’s nine symphonies, Symphony No. 4 also known as “The Romantic,” and Symphony No. 7, the former recorded in 2008 and the latter in 2006 at the Festspielehaus Baden-Baden. Both works feature extended movements with finales similarly marked “Bewegt (quickly), doch nicht zu schnell (but not too fast).” These symphonies are brass-laden and generate huge walls of sound that literally wash over the audience. The challenge inherent in the Bruckner symphony is to keep things moving without luxuriating over the lush orchestration. Conductor Thielemann does a nice job maintaining the musical pulse yet letting us hear the glory and grandeur that is Bruckner. His Munich orchestral forces feature strong string and brass sections that carry the day in works like these.
Agnes Meth works her video magic again with nice balance among the players, conductors and venue. I thought that the older performance had slightly sharper detail, particularly in the close-ups. Both concerts received good color treatment.
In spite of being recorded in the same hall with the same orchestra and conductor, the Bruckner 7 got better treatment with crisper detail and not as much low end boominess that pervaded the Bruckner 4. Hall ambience was discrete in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 version; the 2-channel option, decent but not as spacious.
There are trailers for other C Major Blu-rays and a slim accompanying booklet that describes each work and its background.
The Definitive Word
This is now the third Bruckner 4th and second Bruckner 7th symphonies that I have recently reviewed. For the Bruckner 4th, the Welser-Möst/Cleveland Orchestra disc is difficult to surpass. It has a superb orchestra and receives a fabulous recording. The same conductor’s rendering of the Bruckner 7th receives a decent if not as inspired reading and is undermined by the occasional motion artifact in the film. Sonically it is better than the present offering. That said, this Blu-ray provides two very good performances on a single disc at the same price of each Welser-Möst disc that give us only one symphony. Decisions to buy will depend on the importance of quality over quantity. As a Bruckner fan, I cannot have too many versions of his greatest symphonies. For everyone else, I would seek out the Welser-Möst for the Bruckner 4th, and get this one for its excellent 7th. Consider the additional symphony a bonus.
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