BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Symphony N. 8 in F,
Op. 93. Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. l25 "Choral."
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 26. Symphony No. 2 in D,
Op. 36. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica."
BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis Op. 123
BRAHMS: German Requiem, Op. 45
Christian Thielemann first came to the attention of collectors with his 1996 DG recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra of Beethoven's symphonies five and seven (DG 449981) which is still in the catalog. The conductor has since gone on to major positions in the musical world, particularly in opera. He was music director of Berlin Opera, has conducted in most major opera houses as well as Bayreuth where he is now musical advisor. Thielemann also held major orchestral positions in Dresden and Munich, and in great demand as guest conductor. His conducting style is rather similar to Fritz Reiner, eagle eyes watching everything, a minimum of movement except in the most dramatic moments. These two Beethoven symphony video issues continue the series that began with Symphonies 4, 5 and 6 (REVIEW). The final two issues in the series are listed above and again we have the conductor's lengthy detailed analysis of each work with musical examples. I doubt many listeners will wish to watch all of the documentary aspects of these releases, but the performances are stunning, well filmed, and the audio is magnificent, particularly on Blu-Ray.
Missa Solemnis was recorded February 13-14, 2010, the traditional concert held every year to commemorate the bombardment of Dresden during World War II. Rudolf Kempe conducted the first such concert in 1951. Missa Solemnis had its first performance at the commemorative concerts in 1977 with Herbert Bloomstedt on the podium; in 1993 it was conducted by Sir Colin Davis, and in 2005 with Fabio Luisi. The Thielemann performance was a special occasion marking the 65th anniversary of the opera house's destruction, as well as the 25th anniversary of its reopening. These concerts are highly emotional events for all concerned; always there is a minute of silence at the conclusion of each performance. Obviously Thielemann was dedicated to this reading of Beethoven's masterpiece, directing a superb reading with four splendid soloists, committed playing by the orchestra, and choral work that could not be surpassed. Excellent video and audio as well.
The German Requiem has never before sounded as grandiose as it does here, and Thielemann has the advantage of two outstanding soloists, soprano Christine Schäfer who crystalline voice is at home in music ranging from Boulez and Schoenberg to lieder of Brahms and Schumann. Baritone Christian Gerhaher, whose RCA recording of Mahler lieder was praised on this site (REVIEW), is a majestic presence on this video, matched by the lustrous gleaming voice of soprano Christine Schäfer. The conductor is back on home ground, leading the orchestra of which he was music director for seven years beginning in 2004. As usual from the C Major label, video and audio are state-of-the-art. All of these videos are highly recommended.
R.E.B. (June 2011)