Notes and Editorial Reviews
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Recorded live at the Philharmonie Berlin, 21 June 2010
Picture format: 1080i Full HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 76 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 25)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 5
• Daniel Barenboim, cond; Staatskapelle Berlin • Accentus 102175 (Blu-ray: 76:49) Live: Berlin 6/21/2010
Given the forces on stage here—over 100 players, with the wind and timpani parts reinforced—you might well expect to be crushed. But while there’s plenty of gleaming sonority as the 23 brass players ring out the final pages, Barenboim’s performance as a whole is less self-aggrandizing than you might expect. Indeed, while this is an installment of Bruckner: The Mature Symphonies, the series (as I’ve pointed out elsewhere) might equally well be branded “Barenboim: The Mature Conductor.” Having developed an enviable mastery through his long experience in this repertoire (his first Bruckner cycle, with Chicago, was begun more than 40 years ago), he no longer has anything to prove—and with unfailing poise, he coaxes out the music’s beauties without exaggeration and illuminates its spiritual depths (especially in his eloquent, if surprisingly quick, reading of the slow movement) without the kind of self-absorption that mars so many of Karajan’s late performances.
Will those looking for an extremely personal reading be disappointed? Perhaps. Barenboim—not as streamlined as Zander, as apocalyptic as Furtwängler, or as nimble as Kempe (whose performance is seriously underrated)—does not impose a strong interpretive profile on the music. Still, his performance, if generally temperate in mood, is anything but matter-of-fact. There’s plenty of impetus in the faster sections; there’s a fair dose of schmaltz where needed in the third movement; tempos, if never eccentric, are often quite elastic; and there are welcome jolts of humor, especially in the third movement and the quirky opening of the finale. Barenboim exhibits a superb sense of dynamics, too (quiet passages, especially well handled, offer a keen sense of anticipation)—and while the tone of the orchestra, especially in the finale, is wonderfully plush, it never muddies the counterpoint. Most important of all, there’s Barenboim’s sure sense of the symphony’s formal layout (the slow movement is especially well gauged). In tepid hands, this symphony can seem to last forever; but except in a few of the densest of the finale’s contrapuntal excursions (where, as in many performances, the rhythms seem to stall), we always know where we are and where we are headed.
The orchestra responds magnificently—the strings have a luxurious glow, and the solo winds interweave as well as on any performance I know. Kudos, in particular, to the ear-caressing first flute and first oboe—it would be worth acquiring this disc for their contributions alone. As on so many orchestral videos, I find the emphasis on close-ups and the constant motion of the cameras more than a bit distracting—but the sound is rich, detailed, and enveloping. Warmly recommended.
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