The Dresden Staatskapelle has a living Bruckner tradition, stretching back a century and more, which is lovingly curated by its new music director, Christian Thielemann, who is himself a powerful advocate for the composer’s symphonies as the pinnacle of the Austro-German tradition; and in particular for the Wagnerian resonances of the Seventh, whose Adagio was shaped by news of Wagner’s death in Venice. Hugo Wolf was also deeply affected by that news; his songs, like Bruckner’s symphonies, can be seen as oblique reflections on the influence of Wagner, especially when sung, as they are here by Renée Fleming, with the utmost delicacy and intimacy.
Rafael Kubelik was one of the 20th century's most brilliant and charismatic conductors, yet under-appreciated because of his reluctance to embrace the "star" system. Here he is seen working with the great orchestras of Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam, and featured in a bonus biographical documentary acclaimed for "stylish camera-work and a counterpoint of image, word and music reflecting Kubelik's spontaneity, exuberance, trust in emotion, and ability, even in tailcoat, to retain his warmth and humanity" (Süddeutsche Zeitung).
As comparably short operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are often billed together, but seldom is the lead tenor making his double role debut as Turiddu and Canio on the same evening. At the 2015 Salzburg Easter Festival Jonas Kaufmann did just that – to rapturous praise. Universally hailed as a coup for Kaufmann, plaudits were also showered on Philipp Stölzl for his innovative compartmentalized staging which included live video projections while referencing the era of black-and-white movies.
Filmed live in Baden-Baden by the veteran director Brian Large, Renée Fleming makes her debut in the role of Ariadne together with fellow key Strauss interpreters Sophie Koch and Christian Thielemann, following on from their Rosenkavalier triumph. Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, the orchestra to whom Strauss dedicated his Alpine Symphony and which premiered Feuersnot, Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne. Fleming's voice might have been made for Ariadne and she achieved a great personal triumph in this production: “The chief glory of the evening was hearing Renée Fleming, the Straussian soprano par excellence, making her role debut as Ariadne… As the possessor of what is, possibly, the most beautiful soprano voice in the world, she put her vocal treasures in the service of an empathic, nuanced interpretation of the role. From the creamy top, through a rich, warm middle, to the bewitching, darker colours of her lower register, Fleming poured her magnificent sound into Strauss’s enchanting melodic arcs, animating the sadness, vulnerability, and desire of the bereft princess…” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung