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On foreign tours with the Berlin Staatskapelle, the German capital’s leading opera orchestra, Daniel Barenboim has profiled its prowess in Beethoven and Wagner, proving it has as much to say on the concert platform as in the opera pit. Their Bruckner is less well known – a situation this filmed performance of the Sixth Symphony, part of a DVD cycle from the Berlin Philharmonie, will surely change.
The orchestra’s timbre has the weight and depth we expect from central Europe, but what comes across here is its homogeneity and commitment. The musicians clearly love Bruckner: the tender slow movement simply glows and every section leader excels. The camera strikes a judicious, unfussy balance between overviews and close-ups, in a way that supports the musical argument.
Barenboim’s relaxed, unshowy direction concentrates on the big picture, contouring and terracing the musical edifice rather than commenting on detail or ratcheting up the crescendos. In short, the least familiar of Bruckner’s mature symphonies is allowed to speak for itself, and the result is unexpectedly powerful.
The final instalment of Janowski’s CD cycle with the Geneva-based Orchestra de la Suisse Romande brings the Fourth Symphony, Bruckner’s most approachable, in a performance noticeably lighter in texture than Barenboim’s, with less clarity in the climaxes. Janowski, a no-nonsense Brucknerian, showcases his orchestra’s singing violins and sensitive woodwinds, but the cello lines are alarmingly thin and the overall sound lacks the majesty this music demands.
Symphony No 6
Symphony No 4