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Gielen Edition


Release Date: 09/24/2002 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93080   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenFranz SchubertAnton BrucknerAlexander Scriabin,   ... 
Performer:  Stefan LitwinJohn BröchelerMelanie DienerChristiane Oelze
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony OrchestraBerlin Radio Symphony OrchestraBerlin Radio Symphony Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 4 Hours 38 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The first disc I unwrapped contained a powerful, measured, and ultimately very beautiful Bruckner 6th. Gielen’s brooding, menacing opening empties into a sea of triumph with the entrance of the main theme. Gielen finds the requisite weight for the music without ever letting the sound thicken. The movement’s second theme is particularly fine as well. I was struck by the unexaggerated beauty of the slow movement. It’s conclusion, in Gielen’s hands, has a lofty valedictory quality. The conductor’s approach, deceptively straightforward, is richly detailed and most impressive in its structural integrity. I was impressed by his deep understanding of not only tempo relationships within the symphony’s four movements but between them as well. This Read more important distinction can be heard in all my favorite recordings of the work—Karajan, Klemperer, Haitink, and now Gielen. The playing of the SWF Orchestra is excellent without being comparable to Karajan’s Berliners or Haitink’s Concertgebouw.

Not surprising at all, considering Gielen’s musical pedigree, is that he speaks the vocabulary of the Second Vienna School with particular fluency. His disc of these composers is on a similar level to the Bruckner, and here in this difficult repertoire, the SWF players outdo themselves. The conductor’s unfussy yet sympathetic manner pays great rewards in Schoenberg’s Glückliche Hand, the ever unpopular though highly expressive and strangely beautiful drama of endless seeking. Gielen perfectly evokes the eerie moonlit landscape and its ominous undercurrents with its ostinato rhythm of tympani and harp in a musically transparent landscape. Baritone John Broecheler sings of his sehnsucht well, though I can only imagine what Thomas Quastoff would bring to this part. The powerful third picture—“Das kann man einfacher!” is striking in its richly colorful and dramatic effects. Overall, this is a virtuoso performance of great insight and, dare I say, affection. Listening to it almost had me on the phone booking my ticket to Baden-Baden to hear Gielen and his forces live.

The equally unloved Der Wein reveals its wine-induced splendors under Gielen’s knowing direction. Although the piece is famously elusive, its opening conjured the image of the score to an imaginary French film-noir. (French was the language of my first acquaintance with Der Wein: a performance given in French by Phyllis Curtin, later recorded with Erich Leinsdorf.) Here, Melanie Diener, a superb Wagnerian, makes a most convincing case for Berg’s music, pointing text and musical phrases with fervor and a great deal of tonal beauty.

The fleeting and evanescent beauties of Webern’s Five Pieces—five musical diamonds—seem somehow longer and more substantial here, such care is taken by Gielen in creating fresh, transparent textures. Webern’s Cantata features Gielen’s excellent choir, and lyric soprano Christiane Oelze is as expressive and impressive as is Diener in the Berg.

Neither Steuermann’s brief set of Variations nor Gielen’s own, lengthy composition are on the level of the works previously mentioned, but this disc’s revelatory Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern are reward enough.

Gielen’s Beethoven Eighth is straightforward almost to a fault: Moderate tempos, musical phrases, and clean textures distinguish a fine, traditional performance. It is very well played, if not the last word in virtuosity. The Allegro vivace begins promisingly with a lithe and propulsive statement of the opening music. With the first movement’s repeat and development, things become a bit stiff. In the Allegretto scherzando, Gielen places little emphasis on the scherzando. The Tempo di minuetto is better: strong and vividly characterized with a measure of charm allowed to creep in, especially in the Trio section where horns and clarinets do a rustic turn reminiscent of similar moments in the “Pastoral” Symphony.

The Third Concerto’s first movement is given a typically fresh performance as well. Gielen’s orchestral introduction is mysterious with subtle, nearly sotto voce strings sounding conspiratorial. Pianist Stefan Litwin’s playing is firm-toned, strong, urgent, and musical. He is recorded naturally rather than with the overly forward placement favored on recordings by many soloists. I was somewhat disappointed by his playing in the two concluding movements. The Largo is heavily peddled with obscured harmonies and a loss of clarity as the result. After the grand first movement, Litwin and Gielen sound small scaled and episodic in the second. The scale shrinks and the orchestra sounds congested, especially in the tuttis. The Grosse Fuge in Gielen’s own transcription sorely challenges the orchestra and does not make for either pleasant or engrossing listening.

Gielen’s Schubert Ninth was the major work on one of Lufthansa’s four (!) classical music channels, and I heard it in bits and pieces repeatedly as I drifted in and out of sleep on an overnight flight to Frankfurt last month. Listening to it at home was a more positive experience, though I found Gielen to be decidedly unheroic in this quick, occasionally clipped performance. His manner, though not romantic, has moments of great elegance and poised playing. The beauty here is in the details and in Gielen’s mastery of shape and architecture.

The rest of the set is less satisfying. An unconvincing performance of Scriabin’s Symphony No. 3 gives the impression that Gielen—uncharacteristically timid—is unconvinced by the music. It lacks the long, impassioned line this music needs to be effective and sounds more like a forgotten and not particularly inspired Liszt tone poem. Busoni is clearly more interesting to Gielen, as he offers a probing and thoughtful performance of the Berceuse.

The Gielen 75th Anniversary Edition represents recordings made from 1975–2002. They represent a considerable body of very serious work. Michael Gielen is now a permanent guest conductor with the SWF. Based on these recordings, I shall definitely seek the opportunity to hear this musician and this orchestra perform together in concert.

Michael Fine, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/2000 
Venue:  Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 24 Minutes 23 Secs. 
2. Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Stefan Litwin (Piano)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/20/1994 
Venue:  H. Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 33 Minutes 30 Secs. 
3. Grosse Fuge for String Quartet in B flat major Op. 133 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1825-1826; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1993 
Venue:  H. Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 16 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Notes: Arranged: Michael Gielen 
4. Symphony no 9 in C major, D 944 "Great" by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1825-28; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/27/1996 
Venue:  Royal Festival Hall, London, England 
Length: 51 Minutes 20 Secs. 
5. Symphony no 6 in A major, WAB 106 by Anton Bruckner
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879-1881; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 03/29/2001 
Venue:  Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 66 Minutes 33 Secs. 
6. Symphony no 3 in C minor, Op. 43 "Le divin poème" by Alexander Scriabin
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1904; Russia 
Date of Recording: 05/1975 
Venue:  H. Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 55 Minutes 57 Secs. 
7. Berceuse elégiaque, Op. 42a by Ferruccio Busoni
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Berlin, Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/03/1995 
Venue:  H. Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 22 Secs. 
8. Miroirs: Une barque sur l'océan by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 01/09/1997 
Venue:  Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 51 Secs. 
9. Scherzo à la russe by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943-1944; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/17/1998 
Venue:  Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
10. Die glückliche Hand, Op. 18 by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  John Bröcheler (Baritone)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Symphony Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1990-2002 
Length: 13 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: This selection was recorded at Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany or
at Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. 
11. Der Wein by Alban Berg
Performer:  Melanie Diener (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1990-2002 
Length: 13 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: This selection was recorded at Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany or
at Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. 
12. Pieces (5) for orchestra, Op. 10 by Anton Webern
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Modern 
Written: 1911-1913; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1990-2002 
Length: 4 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: This selection was recorded at Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany or
at Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. 
13. Cantata no 1, Op. 29 by Anton Webern
Performer:  Christiane Oelze (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Anton Webern Choir Freiburg
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1939; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1990-2002 
Length: 7 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: This selection was recorded at Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany or
at Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. 
14. Variations for Orchestra by Eduard Steuermann
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 
Date of Recording: 1990-2002 
Length: 8 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Notes: This selection was recorded at Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany or
at Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. 
15. Pflicht und Neigung by Michael Gielen
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 1990-2002 
Length: 25 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Notes: This selection was recorded at Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany or
at Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. 
16. Frühlingsstimmen, Op. 410 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1883; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/04/1998 
Venue:  Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. 
17. Prelude and Fugue in E flat major, BWV 552 "St Anne" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1739; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/22/1996 
Venue:  Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 14 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: Arranged: Arnold Schoenberg 

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