BRUCKNER Symphony No 2 (Thielemann)
With this final instalment of Thielemann’s Bruckner series with the Staatskapelle Dresden, a complete cycle of the composer’s numbered symphonies is available on DVD and Blu ray for the first time, previous video sets from Wand and Barenboim having included only Symphonies Nos 4 9.
Thielemann opts for the revised 1877 version of the symphony rather than the longer version from 1872. Like Barenboim in his two recordings of the 1877 edition, Thielemann observes the cut from bars 48 to 69 in the second theme of the Andante. This is in keeping with the composer’s final wishes, although the Carragan edition includes the passage as an option for the conductor, and both Janowski and Venzago include it in their recordings.
Common with previous releases in the cycle is the warm and alert playing from the Staatskapelle Dresden. There is a real sense of the players listening and responding to each other during the performance. As before, Thielemann conducts from memory throughout, directing the orchestra with his usual serious expression and occasionally inflexible baton technique. It’s not the most involving performance, however, until the last movement, which commences with a blaze of energy significantly beyond anything heard earlier in the symphony. Unfortunately, this new level of intensity is relatively short-lived, the tension seeming to ebb away in the movement’s more reflective passages. It’s a similar story in the Andante, the refinement of the playing undermined by a tendency towards lethargy as well as some notably exaggerated dynamics, both loud and quiet.
The video direction by Alexander Radulescu maintains a judicious balance between conductor and orchestra, with well-timed close-ups of individual players. There are also occasional distance shots showing the orchestra in the wider setting of the Elbphilharmonie. The Blu ray disc I watched maintains the exemplary video and audio quality of the cycle as a whole.