Bruckner: Symphony No. 9

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Georg Tintner
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554268
Budget-minded Brucknerians will welcome Georg Tintner’s eloquent Naxos Ninth. This new account from Glasgow vies with Tintner’s Dublin Eighth, at the apogee of his Naxos cycle, but there are obvious shortcomings. Take the upwardly-striving figure at the start of the finale, where the luxuriant tonal saturation of the vastly superior Leipzig violin section under Blomstedt finds Tintner’s players thin-sounding and underpowered by comparison.

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Unlike Tintner, who always wears his heart on his sleeve in Bruckner, Blomstedt sees the Ninth not as a tear-jerking Mahlerian departure, but as a philosophical confrontation with the darkness and nihilism that Bruckner’s credo exorcised from all of his symphonies, but the last. So in the opening movement, don’t expect Riccardo Chailly’s welcome songful uplift at the violins’ second theme. Blomstedt drives the music implacably toward the coda’s hellish dissonances with fearless determination – I’ve seldom heard it played better, but I’ve often felt much more, as indeed I do with Tintner. .

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Blomstedt’s Scherzo is truly shocking; Sinopoli’s eruptive histrionics with the Staatskapelle on DG recently had nothing on this. The great Adagio, Bruckner’s `farewell to life’, unfolds as eloquently as ever I’ve heard it done, though Blomstedt’s reading is tautly-controlled in a way that some will find more mannered than meaningful. Courageously objective, with an intellectual solidity that few living conductors save Gunter Wand can match, Blomstedt’s Ninth won’t satisfy if you prefer a more human and compassionate approach, so sample Riccardo Chailly’s (with the Concertgebouw), and definitely Tintner’s if price is an issue. Michael Jameson