, October 2011
The blurb on this Blu-Ray trumpets the significance of this concert; not only does it mark the 90th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival, it also commemorates 50 years of the city’s Großes Festspielhaus. And as performers go, this is as stellar as it gets, with Daniel Barenboim leading the Viennese orchestra and choirs in a varied programme of Beethoven, Boulez and Bruckner. His long line of Beethoven recordings…is the stuff of legends, so chances are we’re in for a treat with this new rendition of the G major concerto. The Boulez may be less appealing, but the real draw for me is Bruckner’s mighty Te Deum, which Barenboim has also recorded before (DG).
…the opening is as rafter-raising as ever. The soundstage is deep and wide, the choral singing wonderfully incisive. The soloists are well blended, and one marvels anew at how Bruckner structures this huge edifice. The mood is now fearful, now fervent. How he builds unerringly to those vaulting climaxes rendering the hushed ‘holies’ a tingling precursor to yet another blaze of sound. As for the Viennese brass, they’re in splendid form throughout.
Klaus-Florian Vogt is somewhat soft-toned in the ‘Te ergo’, but he’s always firm and ardent. The quartet sings with quiet radiance here and the ensuing trombone postlude more affecting than usual. Indeed, one hears a lot of telling detail that’s often lost in a wall of sound. The plucked basses are especially audible, as is the rasp of deep brass. Just listen to those fire-breathing timps in the ‘Aeterna fac’, adding awesome weight and momentum to the choirs’ stratospheric singing. Really, Bruckner doesn’t get much better than this, and one senses Barenboim knows just how to shape and pace this music for maximum effect, both musical and emotional.
Röschmann and Garanča are a well-matched pair, Vogt is nicely complemented by the warm, steady tones of veteran bass René Pape in the ‘Salvum fac’. And when they sing together even Barenboim smiles approvingly in their direction. ‘In te, Domine, speravi’ is the musical and dramatic apogee of this great work, the choirs hurling their high notes into the empyrean before storming the very citadels of Heaven. I simply defy you not to be moved, and mightily so, by those final perorations which are among the most glorious in all music.
…there’s enough here to make this a worthwhile concert. I daresay most will buy this Blu-Ray for the bread and perhaps skip the filling; don’t, for the Boulez is a splendid piece, superbly shaped and projected by Barenboim and his band. It’s the perfect entrée to this composer’s often knotty œuvre and, quite possibly, it’s the hidden gem in this star-studded affair.
Despite some technical issues, this is worth adding to your stash of Blu-Rays.