Franz Welser-Möst

Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7

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The last thing the world needs is pro forma Bruckner. Whether one admires or abjures the Austrian composer -- and his symphonies' enormous scale, immense scope and unrelenting spirituality has made him fewer friends than enemies -- any conductor who stays on his music's surface is bound to disappoint. So it proves in Franz Welser-Möst's early-'90s EMI recordings of the Fifth and Seventh symphonies with the London Philharmonic. His lines are too clean, his balances too blended, his tempos too smooth, and his dynamic contrasts too sculpted for Bruckner's abrupt transitions, massive orchestrations, and vertiginous structures to have their intended awe-inspiring effect. Here, the Fifth is merely an outsized exercise in counterpoint and the Seventh is simply an overlong essay in symphonic logic. Despite the wholly professional playing of the London musicians, these performances consistently fail to take flight, and EMI's cool, clear digital sound captures performances that are more style than substance.

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