Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 conducted by Christian Thielemann

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Dresden/ Christian Thielemann
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 732508; Blu-Ray: 732604


This is the second time in seven years that this symphony, conducted by Christian Thielemann, has appeared on DVD and Blu-Ray. The previous issue, with the Munich Philharmonic, has it coupled with the Seventh (reviewed August 2010). This new performance, part of the complete Bruckner cycle with the marvellous Staatskapelle Dresden, sounds gorgeous but seems strangely devoid of direction and meaning. The disc raises the interesting question of how valuable it is to watch as opposed to just hearing. The answer is of course that it depends on the camerawork, the players and, in orchestral works, the conductor. Thielemann is the least expressive conductor I have ever seen. His face rarely suggests or registers anything, his only gesture is a kind of withdrawal of his trunk to indicate a diminuendo. Otherwise he gives the orchestra a clear beat, but that’s it. To watch the players is far more interesting, but too often the camera reverts to him.

For anyone who doesn’t share my problem, this is a superbly played account of the Symphony in its original version (more or less) from 1874. That means it is about ten minutes longer than the version we normally hear, from 1880, and which I much prefer. The first version really does sometimes give the impression that Bruckner is at a loss as to what to do next, to an extent which becomes embarrassing in the enormous last movement, though the ending, when it arrives, seems oddly abrupt, given the length of preparations for it.


Michael Tanner