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.
Bernard Haitink & London Symphony Orchestra started their Bruckner cycle with this album. Haitink’s previous releases on LSO Live (Beethoven: Complete Symphonies & Triple Concerto & Strauss: Ein Alpensinfonie) are very good, & now he continues this line. Bernard Haitink is internationally renowned for his interpretations of Bruckner and is widely recognised as the world’s leading Bruckner conductor.
Of Anton Bruckner’s 11 symphonies, the perennially popular 7th in E major is his most consistently melodious, evenly paced, & lyrically flowing, with comparatively few false starts, awkward pauses, or tedious fanfares. For this exceptional hybrid SACD from PentaTone, Yakov Kreizberg & the Vienna Symphony deliver 1 of the smoothest & roundest performances of the symphony heard in years. Yet it might actually be too polished for the liking of some old-guard Bruckner fans, who may argue that the orchestra is too mellow, luscious, & soft, & that Kreizberg’s inflections & phrases are too nuanced & sensual for the composer’s pure, almost sacred, intentions. But more important than the undeniably rich tonal quality found here is the interpretation, which draws on the style of Wagner’s most ardent music; some of the more ecstatic passages of Lohengrin & Tristan und Isolde may come to mind when one hears this disc.