August 5, 2007 Classical Recordings
Linz's Favorite Son
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5
Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. EuroArts 2055918, DVD.
WHEN Franz Welser-Möst is good, he is very, very good. And Mr. Welser-Möst, who was born in Linz, Austria, is superb in the music of Bruckner, Linz's favorite son.
This video was recorded live in Linz during a Cleveland Orchestra tour last year, at the Abbey of St. Florian, where Bruckner served as choirboy, teacher and Organist, and where he is buried. The magnificent Baroque basilica affords much to occupy the eye in addition to stock shots of conductor and orchestra. And Bruckner's organlike accumulations of blocks of sound stand up well to its reverberant acoustics.
The Fifth is one of Bruckner's mightiest symphonies, so much so that some conductors used to make a show of bringing on reinforcements in the brasses for the final section. If the Cleveland wind players are at all fazed, they neither look nor sound it.In any case Bruckner's natural element here seems not to be noise, as in so many performances, but a quiet intensity that proves all the more striking as the huge sonorities grow out of it or subside back into it. Bruckner's many silences are gripping, and Mr. Welser-Möst is fearless in o extendin them to the füll.
No one seems quite sure what to make of Mr. Welser-Möst as an orchestral conductor, five years into his tenure in Cleveland. His Mahlen in particular can seem a little blank and lacking in atmosphere. (It did at least in a performance of the Seventh at Carnegie Hall in 2003; one hopes he can improve on that in the Second at Carnegie in October.) But in the right repertory (and it doesn't get any righter than this) he can be sensational. And despite numerous changes of personnel in the orchestra in recent years, he obviously still has it playing at the top of its matchless form.
JAMES R. OESTREICH