BRUCKNER Symphonie No. 5 Thielemann

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ANTON BRUCKNER

Symphonie No. 5
Münchner Philharmoniker
Christian Thielemann
Int. Release 01 Mar. 2005
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CD DDD 0289 477 5377 3 GH
Live recording
"At the end of it all, the audience erupted and Thielemann beamed with satisfaction. Maybe Bruckner did, too."Financial Times (London), November2004


Track List

Anton Bruckner (1824 - 1896)
Symphony No.5 in B flat major

Edition: Robert Haas

Münchner Philharmoniker, Christian Thielemann

Total Playing Time 1:22:34

He plays the Munich Philharmonic like a master organist, achieving that sublime, superhuman breathlessness only the organ can deliver . . . Thielemann's broad, expansive, seamless interpretation of the Fifth, rich as a swag of heavy velvet drapery and fluid as mercury, opens with the most compelling account of the soft, treading opening I've heard. From that first hushed figure, at the limit of audibility, you know something's up. How an interpretation can sustain the kind of trajectory this one does over a four-movement, 80-minute work with no sense of tension is an unanswerable riddle. But it does, completing the score's great arc without slackening its attention or flagging in energy. Not only are the rhythms in perfect proportion throughout, so are the dynamics . . . This is Bruckner playing at its most exalted, raising the second-movement Adagio to the same lofty plateau as the more famous, later ones.

Thielemann conjures forth a dark, dauntingly powerful sound that is never costive or unclear . . . Few performances catch the music¿s autochthonous quality quite so well. The recording is superb.

An excellent recording, drawn from Mr. Thielemann's first concerts as music director of the Munich Philharmonic last year. This orchestra has vast experience with Bruckner
from its days under Günter Wand, Sergiu Celibidache and before, and it greeted its new boss with a resplendent performance.

Thielemann's debut recording with the Munich Philharmonic is shocking in its literalness. The orchestra plays mostly magnificently in this 'live' recording . . . The strings play with great sweetness and sometimes, as in the glorious second subject of the slow movement, extreme richness of tone. Every bar is played for all its worth . . .

Christian Thielemann's high-profile appointment with this orchestra is set to keep it under a well deserved spotlight: its lustrous and powerful playing of Bruckner's mighty Fifth Symphony holds its own impressively with the standard set in Berlin and elsewhere. Thielemann opts for a proudly traditional approach to Bruckner interpretation . . . he also generates an authentic and glowing grandeur, and the finale's long trajectory is superbly judged.

. . . its euphonious tone and terraced dynamics are so well realized, the Adagio works best . . .

Best of all, it delivers a glorious rendition of Anton Bruckner's mighty Fifth Symphony, deriving from one or more public performances inaugurating Christian Thielemann's directorship of the Munic Philharmonic . . . The Deutsche Grammophon stereo recording is rich, wrm, full, and when appropriate, powerful . . . Thielemann's Bruckner is weighty, solemn, and dramatic in the style of the late Herbert von Karajan, one of his teachers. At the same time, within particular movements Thielemann has a fine sense of the rise and fall of tension, and the importance of lilt and swing in the second subjects of the symphony's outer movements. He can create lightness and transparency when indicated . . . From the softly plucked contrabass strings at the very beginning to the emphatic unison Bb over 82 minutes later, this is a treat for ear, mind, and soul. One looks forward to more Bruckner from Maestro Thielemann.

. . . this is indeed a very slow performance of Symphony no. 5. In many readings of similar length, tension sags, interest flags, and ponderous dullness reigns supreme. In this instance, not only does this not occur, but instead a grand and eloquent structure is unveiled . . . Its slowness allows time for the listener to enjoy this gorgeous sound and to appreciate the progression and larger architecture of this great music . . . DG's sound is smooth, rich, reverberant, yet full of detail and utterly natural.

Thielemann maintains a firm concentration and a secure passion throughout, no matter how slow things get.

Er vereinte Sinn und Form. Größe hatte Charakter, Gewalt klang nicht hohl.

Er vereint Sinn und Form. Größe hat Charakter, Gewalt klingt nicht hohl.

Er hat kürzlich sein Amt als Chefdirigient der Münchner Philharmoniker angetreten. Das Debütkonzert, allseits umjubelt, wurde für CD mitgeschnitten. Es galt Bruckners zyklopischer Fünfter, die Thielemann vor allem im Finale mit großem Gespür für die dramaturgischen Entwicklungen inszeniert. Sein Orchester spielt mit Hingabe auf, macht auch die ersten drei Sätze dank gewaltiger Klangentladungen zum Ereignis.

Hier zielt alles auf Größe . . . Thielemann achtet mehr auf Verschmelzung als auf Durchsichtigkeit, mit zum Teil betörendem Effekt. Die Tempi hält der Münchner im Griff, nimmt die Ritardandi breit und bedeutungsschwer. Auch im Adagio gestattet er sich kaum Temposchwankungen. Dieser Satz ruht in sich selbst, die unendliche Schönheit des Münchner Streicherklangs macht ihn zu einem bewegenden Erlebnis.

Es fasziniert . . . die vorbildliche Transparenz der polyphonen Strukturen und die bis ins Detail ziselierte Farbgebung. Auch ein Verdienst der vor allem im Blech fabelhaft agierenden Philharmoniker . . . Klangtechnisch makellos, Ohrenfreude garantiert.

Der Beginn hochdramatisch, verheißungsvoll aufrauschend das Adagio: So gewaltig brausend und hochexpress war der Streicherchoral seiten zu hören. DG-Tonmeister-Guru Prof. Rainer Maillard liefert Perfektion bei Farbenreichtum und Transparenz (exzellent die Münchner Blechbläser!) . . . Wie Irrlichter lässt [Thielemann] Ländler und Walzer im Scherzo vorbeihuschen, entwickelt aus dem Urnebel im Finale einen packenden Hymnus. Ein 82-Minuten-Krimi aus Träumen, Zweifeln, Triumphen.

Was ins Ohr sticht, ist die betörende . . . Klanglichkeit. Das vermag heutzutage, gerade in der Musik der Hochromantik, kein anderer so schlüssig und so farbenkräftig wie Thielemann.

Auch klanglich bleibt kaum ein Wunsch offen, die Mittelstimmen etwa bleiben herrlich transparent, vor allem in den Kontrapunkt-Komplikationen des Finales.

Große Emotionen, raffinierte Klangwirkungen sind [Thielemann] wichtig. Aus ihnen formt er Interpretationen, die keinen Zuhörer unberührt lassen . . . [Die Münchner Aufnahme der Symphonie Nr. 5 bewegt] sich musikalisch in gewaltigen architektonischen Räumen, [ist] imponierend und trotzdem immer wieder auch intim.

. . . la vision de Thielemann est, on s'en doutait, orientée vers le grandiose et le monumental, dans une perspective ouvertement ancrée dans la tradition germanique. Les tempos, il le revendique, sont amples . . . et la construction met l'accent sur les deux mouvements extrêmes, d'ailleurs superbement architecturés . . . Thielemann aspire à une vision puissante jusqu'au gigantisme de la symphonie, qui impressionne . . .

. . . construye una atmósfera de recogimiento, en la que siempre hay una fuerza en avance constante marcando el compás . . . Grabada en directo, la apoteosis final lograda por la Filarmónica de Munich es el perfecto empaque a una obra cuya materia prima es lo intangible en estado puro.

De Münchense musici spelen glorieus.
Revealing the Fire Within

Thielemann conducts Bruckner's Fifth in Munich

"The chemistry is right." Christian Thielemann was already saying this after his first guest appearance with the Munich Philharmonic. How well these musicians and their new music director harmonize was clearly audible at Thielemann's inaugural concert on 29 October 2004 in the Munich Philharmonie. He began Anton Bruckner's Fifth Symphony with an incredible pianissimo, such as only Herbert von Karajan and Sergiu Celibidache before him could achieve. And it remained exciting down to the final chord. But then long seconds passed before the tumultuous applause broke out. Thielemann had accomplished his highest aim: "Convey tension while remaining relaxed. Karajan once told me that - and quickly added that he worked at it his whole life long."

Christian Thielemann was already confident of achieving something extraordinary when he signed his contract with the Munich Philharmonic, the first orchestra devoted entirely to concerts that he's ever headed. And it was clear that the exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist also wanted to record with his Munich players - which, however, indicated no lessening of his affection for the Philharmonic orchestras of Berlin and Vienna. There would also be further live recordings in the future. "With this Bruckner symphony we've succeeded in capturing a faithful impression of what the concert audience experienced. We needed afterwards to patch just three spots - and only because of distracting noises in the hall. At most there's a total of ten seconds that isn't from the concert. But you'll also be able to hear plainly on the CD that I've chosen to use my typical orchestral seating arrangement - which is actually just the old traditional seating arrangement." First and second violins facing each other on opposite sides and framing the cellos, basses and violas. By dividing the violins you clarify the dialogue between them and prevent that thick, viscous string sound" (Thielemann).

It would be hard to imagine a greater contrast than between Thielemann's music-making style and that of Sergiu Celibidache who, from 1979 until his death in 1996, erected Brucknerian sound cathedrals in Munich and made a lasting impact on the taste of the city's audiences. But Munich's new Generalmusikdirektor isn't worried by such comparisons with the past. The Munich Philharmonic's Bruckner tradition that Thielemann now enters is much older than that. In 1887 Anton Bruckner already felt more at home in Munich than in Vienna - because his symphonies were performed there and the public acclaimed him. It was the Munich Philharmonic, after all, which instituted the first Bruckner festivals at the turn of the 20th century.

The Fifth Symphony in particular has had a special significance for this orchestra founded in 1893: the Munich Philharmonic gave the premiere in 1935 of the work's original version, which the composer himself never heard; and in 1985 Celibidache opened the Philharmonie, the city of Munich's sole large concert hall, with Bruckner's Fifth.

But Christian Thielemann's choice was not motivated by any thoughts of a local commemoration: "For me it had to be Bruckner for the first concert as chief conductor and our first CD together. It's their Bruckner tradition that I want to become part of. I'm a Bruckner conductor, in other words, somebody who feels an attraction to his work. I deliberated for a long time between the Fifth Symphony and the Eighth. The decision for the Fifth was an absolutely musical one and absolutely emotional."

Thielemann had previously conducted this symphony twice in Italy and - in a series of performances that has remained firmly etched in his memory - with the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis. His experience with Bruckner in general, and with the Fifth Symphony in particular, have resulted in a performance that will surprise listeners seeking a comparison with the great Bruckner conductors of the past. Thielemann exposes the structure of the score, displays its dramatic qualities - and its connections with the organ, the instrument that so profoundly influenced Bruckner's feeling for sound.

Nevertheless Thielemann isn't thinking about the work's religious qualities, even about the Catholic Church - not for a moment: "I don't know - is slowness religious? I don't see that. I associate Bruckner more with St. Mary's in Danzig than with St. Florian near Linz. It's funny, but what I think about with Bruckner is always East Prussia, the German brick architecture, the great forests and trees of East Prussia, those avenues of 250-year-old oaks that stretch for miles. This is the type of slowness that I connect with Bruckner. Of course it's something very personal, but then that's also the way one conducts the symphony. It may be that what I feel there is more Protestant clarity and rigour. But must I be religious? There's absolutely no indication of that in the music, in the score."

Although Christian Thielemann in his first Bruckner recording only negligibly exceeds the work's normal playing time of an hour and 20 minutes, one of his concerns - and also the key to his interpretation - is that of involving the listener in the slowness: "Bruckner's music isn't fiery in the normal sense. But behind the stillness, not just in the slow movements, there's an incredible fire raging - a different kind of fire, one that burns beneath the surface. When you can take that in as a listener in conjunction with the organ sonorities in the orchestra - the changes of registration that are so often misconstrued as "breaches" - then the Fifth Symphony will reveal itself to you. You don't need to be looking out for fugues and chorales in order to find a deeper meaning. I'm not proclaiming a message with my interpretation: no politics, no philosophy. Feel free to imagine in it whatever you please.

12/2004


Christian Thielemann - Chronology

Chronology Christian Thielemann was born in Berlin in 1959 and began what Karajan called the classical conductor's "hard but indispensable slog" through numerous small theatres at an early age. After 20 years of operatic experience, Thielemann, who also has been guest conductor-in-chief at the Teatro Comunale of Bologna, started concentrating on a few selected orchestras and opera houses such as Covent Garden in London, the Metropolitan in New York and the Vienna State Opera.

1991 Conducts Wagner's Lohengrin with great success at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin
1991/1992 US debut conducting a new production of Strauss's Elektra in San Francisco, soon followed by engagements at the Metropolitan, including Strauss's Rosenkavalier and, later, Arabella with Kiri Te Kanawa (released by Deutsche Grammophon on VHS and DVD) In the years that follow he regularly conducts leading American orchestras (Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota) as well as appearing with such major international orchestras as the Berliner Philharmoniker and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
1993 After engagements at all the major Italian opera houses, named Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Comunale of Bologna
1995/96 Conducts new production of Pfitzner's Palestrina at the Deutsche Oper; becomes exclusive artist of Deutsche Grammophon - first releases: Preludes and Overtures by Pfitzner and Strauss with the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, and Beethoven Symphonies nos. 5 & 7 with the Philharmonia
1996/97 Conducts Wagner's Die Meistersinger at the Deutsche Oper as well as a new production of Palestrina at Covent Garden, having appeared there during earlier seasons with Janáèek's Jenufa and Strauss's Elektra
1997/98 Becomes Generalmusikdirektor of the Deutsche Oper (a position he holds until 2004); at that house since then he has conducted Mozart's Figaro, all of Wagner's later operas including the complete Ring, Strauss's Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Daphne, Schoenberg's Moses und Aron and Henze's Der Prinz von Homburg; concert performances of Strauss's Die ägyptische Helena at Covent Garden; debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw and Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras; Thielemann's CD releases in this period include Schumann's Second Symphony, the beginning of a complete cycle with the Philharmonia (coupled with the Manfred Overture and Konzertstück for 4 horns), and Wagner Overtures and Preludes with the Philadelphia Orchestra
1999 Recordings of Orff's Carmina burana with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Deutsche Oper and Schumann's Symphony no. 3 coupled with Overture, Scherzo & Finale and Genoveva Overture (Echo Award, 2000) released this year
2000 Bayreuth Festival debut conducting Wagner's Die Meistersinger; Wiener Philharmoniker debut conducting works by Strauss (Alpine Symphony and Rosenkavalier Suite), recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon (Edison Award, 2002); CD release of Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll with the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper
2001 Conducts Parsifal at Bayreuth and a new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Metropolitan; directs the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper at a Wagner Festival held in Paris's Théâtre des Champs-Élysées; CD releases include the Wiener Philharmoniker Strauss recordings and Schumann's Symphonies nos. 1 & 4, completing the cycle with the Philharmonia
2002 2002Salzburg Easter Festival debut conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker; Salzburg Festival debut conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker; conducts a new production of Wagner's Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival; concerts with the Wiener Philharmoniker in Vienna's Musikverein and in London, Paris and Dortmund; conducts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in a Strauss-Pfitzner-Wagner programme and in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; release of his CD Evening Star with Thomas Quasthoff and the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper (CD Compact, Barcelona, 2003)
2003 Conducts a new production of Wagner's Tristan at the Vienna State Opera; returns to Bayreuth to conduct performances of Tannhäuser; tour to Japan with the Wiener Philharmoniker; releases this year include his recording with the Wiener Philharmoniker of Strauss's Ein Heldenleben and the suite from Die Frau ohne Schatten (Choc du Monde de la musique, 2003)
2004 Becomes music director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, programming Bruckner's Fifth Symphony as his inaugural concert with his new orchestra in October; this year he conducts Die Frau ohne Schatten, Die tote Stadt, La fanciulla del West, Parsifal at the Deutsche Oper, Tristan at the Vienna State Opera, and Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival; autumn tour of Spain, Greece, Austria and Germany with the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper; CD releases this year: Tristan und Isolde, recorded live at the Vienna State Opera, and German overtures with the Wiener Philharmoniker
2005 This year he conducts Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Daphne at the Deutsche Oper, Parsifal at the Vienna State Opera and Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival, as well as concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Berlin, the Wiener Philharmoniker to open the Salzburg Festival and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Munich as well as on tour throughout Germany with the Fifth Symphony of Anton Bruckner; CD release: Bruckner 5, the live recording of Thielemann's first concerts as the Philharmonic music director in Munich
2006 Plans for conducting a new production of Wagner's Ring at the Bayreuth Festival

12/2004