Site review by akiralx November 4, 2008
|A very fine performance, well recorded, which satisfies fully on musical grounds but perhaps might fall slightly short on spiritual ones to the most demanding devotees of this work. I have listened several times to this SACD via my Stax earspeaker system and enjoyed it very much indeed.
Interpretatively Luisi forges a fairly uncontroversial course with little to raise the eyebrows - which isn't to say the performance is uninteresting, far from it. The involvement comes from the commitment of the players and the conductor's grasp of the work, with episodes knitted together unnerringly, so holding the structure in place.
Fortunately Luisi rarely employs Jochum-like accelerandi which can weaken the whole - the only noticeable passage for this is subtle in its Brucknerian rubato, and it goes without saying that the Dresden playing is remarakble, with many examples of individual virtuosity allied to corporate excellence.
One performance I have enjoyed for many years is Daniel Barenboim's live Teldec recording with the Berlin PO, and comparisons are instructive - mainly on sonic grounds. This Sony recording, made live in the Semperoper, is full and rich but has the microphones seemingly placed quite close, presumably to eliminate audience noise. It is slightly dryer than would be the case from the Lukaskirche (the orchestras's preferred studio venue where, for example, Sinopoli's stunning Bruckner 8 was made), but is vivid and has tremendous detail. The soundstage is wide.
Barenboim's recording is nowhere near as detailed, and with an acoustic overhang much longer, for example at the conclusion of the first movement, but it has a sense of desperation and sensuality (a quality Luisi discusses in the booklet) occasionally lacking here. The ascent to the terrifying climax of the Adagio is slightly more ominous in Barenboim's than in Luisi's hands, which perhaps are justifiably more interested in showing the structure and harmony of the work, a more modern approach which brings memories of Blomstedt's Bruckner in Leipzig.
Barenboim once said that when he first heard the scherzo of this work he assumed it was by Shostakovich, and the detailed, slightly leaner, sonority of the Dresdeners here brings out that modernity, with little if any slowing for the trio.
Among other recordings of this work I own, I would place this at least as high as the VPO/Giulini and Concertgebouw/Haitink (the 1991 digital version for choice), indeed only second to Barenboim's - one of the very finest recordings he has given us.