One More DVD From Cleveland

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Richard S. Ginell - From Out of the The WestBy Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West

    During the Franz Welser-Möst regime – which looks to be a long one – the Cleveland Orchestra’s preferred recording medium has been the DVD over all audio formats.  So far, this policy has paid off with an excellent collection of Bruckner videos that may turn into a complete cycle if we’re lucky. Symphonies Nos. 5, 7 and 9 have been out for awhile; No. 5 is the pick of the lot with the added advantage of being performed in Bruckner’s own reverberant St. Florian Church near Linz.  And right on top of the Boulez/Cleveland Mahler offering reviewed in my previous posting, here’s another new Cleveland Orchestra DVD – an enterprisingly oddball version of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 (Arthaus Musik).

 

     For some reason, Welser-Möst prefers to use the rarely-heard 1887 first version of the Eighth, where the differences from the usual Haas or Novak editions are frequently stark – to cite a few, a clamorous coda to the first movement instead of the hushed revised version; a radically changed, at times redundant Scherzo with a lyrical alternate Trio. I’m not convinced this version is the way to go; it stretches the length of the symphony to well over 90 minutes, and it makes us appreciate the value of tighter editing in the familiar versions.  But it’s worth the opportunity to hear Bruckner’s first thoughts in such a superbly-played performance in Severance Hall, with the unflappable Welser-Möst setting relatively fleet tempos in the first, second and fourth movements yet finding depth in this extra-long version of the Adagio and cultivating acres of meaningful silence at the right times.  Welser-Möst may have taken his lumps from the press, but he certainly has kept the Cleveland in smashingly good shape, and this Linz native’s plain-spoken Bruckner DVD series with them represents his best work that I know of.