Bruckner • R Strauss • Wolf
On 1 September 2012, Saxony’s great and good assembled in Dresden’s sumptuous Semperoper for Christian Thielemann’s inaugural concert as the orchestra’s music director. Thanks to digital technology, we can now join them, seeing sights along the way that may have passed the audience by. Renée Fleming’s microscopic glances, checking her conductor’s beat; sweat on foreheads; the principal flautist’s russet locks, caught in close-ups: every surface trapping is here in pinprick detail, especially if seen on Blu-Ray.
What the home audience cannot do is get swept up in the atmosphere of a great occasion. Thielemann’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony is majestic and clean, as expected, though it falls just short of the cumulative power that the audience’s warm reception suggests. The camera’s close scrutiny underlines how minimal his conducting can be: a modest beat here, a tiny hand movement there, sufficient it seems for the Austro-German repertoire that is in his bones. The Staatskapelle musicians certainly give their best, with heartfelt strings and burnished winds and brass, wonderfully united in attack.
For the opening selection of orchestrated Wolf songs, Fleming adds further colours. There’s less cream in her tone than before, and her articulation makes you yearn for subtitles; but as she wafts feelingly through ‘Verborgenheit’, ‘Mignon’, ‘Elfenlied’ and others, always acting with eyes and hands, she remains a potent vocal magician. No extras.