Back to the Musikverein tonight for the Staatskapelle Dresden under its new music director Christian Thielemann.
I have never jumped onto the Thielemann bandwagon. For me, the man is too much of a Piefke, very precise with no emotion. Adjusting the orchestral volume does not equate to emotion. Making an orchestra play in a clipped manner does not equal faithful interpretation of the notes.
These problems were on show tonight for Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. This is an extremely difficult work. If played badly, it is over an hour and a half of boredom. If played correctly, it can provide a glimpse of heaven. The Staatskapelle tried hard for the latter. Their playing merited it. Unfortunately, the glorified oompah-oompah of a Prussian on the podium does not seem capable of understanding – let alone feeling – Bruckner. This is a religious work, and requires suspension of disbelief in order to unlock the aether. Thielemann took the work slowly enough, but it came across disjointed, as though Bruckner’s cathedral of sound had been bombed and then rebuilt by uncaring anti-clerical hacks. The stones were all there, and they were piled high enough, but they did not make the needed impression to touch the sky.
This symphony’s third movement is always the test, since it is hard to get right. There is a nuance to it that Thielemann seemed not to get. If played right, it is one of the most beautiful adagios in the entire symphonic repertory. Playing it softly and swelling to climax does not provide a suitable substitute.
All things considered, though, the music was beautiful and well-played. I suppose Thielemann gets that much (and the Staatskapelle is capable of performing Bruckner under other conductors). Thielemann also understood the value of holding the silence at the end of the performance (in this case, a good half-minute of silence, and an educated Viennese audience knew better than to applaud before the conductor releases).