Riccardo Muti / Wiener Philharmoniker

Bruckner: Symphony No. 2; Richard Strauss: Der Bürger als Edelmann

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Not widely known as a Bruckner conductor, Riccardo Muti may be signaling a renewed interest in the composer with the recordings released in 2017: a solid CSO Resound issue of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor and this Deutsche Grammophon double CD, which pairs Bruckner's Symphony No. 2 in C minor with Richard Strauss' Der Bürger als Edelmann Suite. Taken from live performances, which were recorded in 2016 at the Salzburg Festival, these works were chosen by Muti to celebrate his 75th birthday, as well as to commemorate the historic connections between the two composers and the Vienna Philharmonic. Yet the program presents obvious stylistic contrasts, chiefly because Bruckner's symphony is an earnest essay cast in his characteristically expansive symphonic form, while Strauss' incidental music for Hugo van Hofmannsthal's German version of the Molière play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is elegant, concise, and sweetly tuneful. Yet these works reflect different aspects of late Romantic music in Vienna, with Bruckner representing the grand symphonic tradition long associated with the Classical masters, and Strauss providing a counterbalance with the light, sentimental music that flourished in the years before World War I. While this is an unusual match-up, the performances are exceptional for their vitality and clarity, and Muti's interpretations show a deeply sympathetic feeling for Vienna in its glory days.

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