Posts Tagged ‘Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden’

Bruckner’s First, Twice

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Christian Thielemann conducting Bruckner’s First Symphony with his Dresden Staatskapelle at the Gasteig in Munich in 2017

Published: September 24, 2017

MUNICH — He had to abandon his Munich Philharmonic cycle, a cosmic Fifth being one of its relics, but Christian Thielemann’s Dresden cycle* of the numbered Bruckner symphonies has progressed smoothly to near completion, and with video. Oddly parts of it have been filmed here at the Gasteig — scene of the crime, so to speak — most recently on Sept. 6 when the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden turned to the Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Das kecke Beserl, or The Saucy Wench. Meanwhile, a Thielemann successor at the MPhil, Valery Gergiev, has this month embarked on his own Bruckner loop, also to be filmed, but at Sankt Florian. For him, the First has come first: Sept. 21 in a Gasteig concert and tomorrow (Sept. 25) at Bruckner’s basilica. Both conductors opt for the engaging Linz Version (1866) in its 1877 form, although for Thielemann this means an as yet unpublished edition with slight differences from the 1953 Nowak.

Promoted by Bell’Arte, the Saxons’ program opened with a lush account of Bruch’s G-Minor Violin Concerto. Nikolaj Znaider powered the solo part, edgily at first but with eloquence in the Adagio and gutsy expression in the Finale, sending the maestro, among many others, into effusive apparent raptures. Znaider then went to sit with his St Petersburg boss, Gergiev, present to hear what wonders Thielemann would impart after the break in the still relatively rare 45- to 50-minute symphony, written the same year.

The work’s nickname may be a bizarre projection, but its confidence is certain. There is much rhythmic energy; no chorale, fugue or Generalpause impedes the momentum. It opens with a march theme of some irony, moves to a lyrical subject and soon rises to an imposing yet isolated fanfare in the trombones. The development is restrained, the recapitulation free-form and based on a new theme. This reappears in the “agitated, fiery” Finale, a propulsive construct that shifts triumphantly to C Major. In between come a solemn Adagio with fancy violin figurations and a partly songful Scherzo.

Thielemann (pictured the same day) conducted with his customary flair for counterpoint. He had memorized the music and shrewdly gauged its pulsations and climaxes, particularly in the challenging Finale, where a vein of spontaneity lit up the logic. Some hesitancy, though, in middle-movement details suggested he had not yet decided what to do with all the material, and perhaps for this reason his orchestra was not on top form.

If Gergiev took anything away, there was scant evidence Sept. 21. He sustained lighter textures and found charm in unexpected places, persuasively in the Scherzo. On the other hand, a relishing of tone colors came at cost to inner voices in Bruckner’s scheme, lessening its impact. Nothing was implied in that opening march, for example. Nor were the dance elements well served. But the maestro kept his eyes locked on the score and drew a magnificent performance from the MPhil — strings transparent and silky where those qualities counted, intense and glowing elsewhere; brass blasting and soaring with tireless accuracy. Indeed, from its steep, newly modified risers, the MPhil sounded as virtuosic as it had in the finest days of, well, GMD Thielemann (2004–2011). Scheduled for after intermission was Bruckner’s Third Symphony, alas in its late version.

[*DVDs on the C Major label: the 7th and 8th Symphonies filmed in the Semperoper in 2012, the 5th in 2013; the 4th and 9th at Baden-Baden in 2015, the 6th in the Semperoper that year; and the 3rd and 1st in Munich in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Thielemann also filmed the 4th and 7th Symphonies with the MPhil for C Major, in 2009 at Baden-Baden.]

Photo © Dresden Staatskapelle

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Thielemann’s Rosenkavalier

Thielemann’s Rosenkavalier

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Daniela Sindram and Daniela Fally in Der Rosenkavalier in Dresden

Published: November 19, 2012

DRESDEN — Christian Thielemann made his opera debut here yesterday (Nov. 18), thirty-seven long months after agreeing to replace Fabio Luisi as Chefdirigent of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, effectively music director of the Semperoper company. The vehicle, Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s 12-year-old, quasi-faithful staging of Der Rosenkavalier — notable for its Act II, set in a Trump high-rise complete with high-wire paparazzo window cleaner — looked a little clunky for the grand occasion, but the Munich Philharmonic’s ex-boss unfurled his Strauss credentials effectively.

Early on, an out-of-balance woodwind musician sparred with Thielemann until a nifty ascending phrase triggered smiles. Eventually a refined steadiness was achieved across all sections of the orchestra and did not let up. In contrast to recent performances in Munich and Vienna — where handsome werktreuen Otto Schenk stagings dating to 1972 and 1968 hold sway, and where casts are gathered on longer purse strings — this traversal of Der Rosenkavalier cohered musically: rhythms chugged or raced where needed, elsewhere pulsing their way with nonchalance; vocal lines prevailed through instrumental storms; climaxes rose without advance detection; waltzing came naturally.

Daniela Sindram sang with warm impetuosity as the Knight, mooring the cast. Soile Isokoski shaped and shaded the Feldmarschallin’s music with poignant know-how. Veteran baritone Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, jumping in for a sick Martin Gantner, found the high-lying duties of Faninal a bit strenuous. Also straining at the top, at least in Act I, was Wolfgang Bankl as the pivotal Ochs. Sadly, his was the role most impaired by Laufenberg’s comedy-defeating tendency to enrich the action, already finely calibrated by librettist Hofmannsthal. Daniela Fally introduced a too-cute, small-voiced Sophie who blew easy chances to relate to her fellow protagonists.

The saintly-quiet Dresden audience, bewildered and agog at curtain at the effect of Strauss’s Act III dénouement properly executed, just stayed put and applauded one call after another until the conductor effectively ordered an end with a low sweep of his arm. The production returns next June with a different cast. Thielemann’s other 2012–13 Dresden stage engagements are Lohengrin in January and, against type, Manon Lescaut in March, for a grand total of twelve dates.

Photo © Matthias Creutziger

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