Monday, December 30, 2013

Review of Solti Bruckner and Stravinsky DVD

Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 3 (1877 edition)
Igor Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements
Georg Solti
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Arthaus Musik 100 321 (DVD)

Georg Solti’s conducting style is well showcased in this DVD recording of two 1993 concerts from the Philharmonie im Gasteig in Munich. The pairing is somewhat unusual. Stravinsky and Bruckner is not a regular combination. But it works well. The 81-year old conductor is in characteristically vigorous form and both pieces lend themselves to his forceful approach. 

The Third is Bruckner’s most Wagnerian (some would say: bombastic) symphony. Solti gives a driving performance that brings out the lyrical and dancing sections while keeping the overall architecture clearly in view. Both the first movement (Mehr lansam, misterioso) and the final Allegro demonstrate Solti’s ability to bring out the contrasts in Bruckner, particularly in the schizophrenic last movement that oscillates between a polka and a funeral march. The driving scherzo is terrific.

The virtues of Solti’s Bruckner conducting are very clear in the  Adagio, where the pace and momentum are finely judged to let the lyricism of the music come through. At the same time, though, Solti is not at the mystical end of Bruckner conducting and some listeners will think that there are depths to the music that he does not reach. I am sympathetic to that view, but still relish the energy and drive that Solti brings.

Energy and drive are also present in the Stravinsky, which was the first piece Stravinsky wrote after emigrating to the US. Here the videography helps the listener appreciate some of the nuances of the scoring (whereas in the Bruckner the cameras add relatively little). There is not much to be gained from the liner notes, however. As far as I can see, this is a minimally repackaged pair of TV broadcasts. At least, the sound quality is acceptable.

This DVD is certainly recommended for Solti enthusiasts. For a more general audience, it provides a distinctive (and very worthwhile) interpretation of Bruckner 3, as well as exposure to a Stravinsky piece that is not as frequently heard as it should be.