Symphony No. 9 (1894 version)
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Channel Classics CCSSA 42822 (CD/SACD) 55:33 mins
There comes a point in a reviewer’s life when a new recording of one of his favourite works can come to seem mildly – or more – problematic. There are some pieces with which that never happens: most of Bach or Mozart for instance. But the great Romantic works can, partly on account of their sheer determination to be impressive, come across either as too familiar or as resolutely different from usual. At present, with a really astonishing number of Bruckner issues – and there are all those alternative passages – that does seem to me a danger. It is not one which this latest recording entirely avoids. For a newcomer it will be a knockout, because Bruckner’s last work simply is an amazing work: but it is so amazing because Bruckner almost literally killed himself composing it – and all attempts to complete the last movement should be avoided. The three movements we have are sublime, but there is a limited number of things one can do with them without seeming wilful, and I feel this about the Ninth.
If you chanced on this recording you’d be very impressed, I hope. A superb orchestra and a deeply committed conductor. But there are already so many majestic recordings, admittedly varying immensely from one another, and to hear Jochum or Furtwängler conduct this work is to be taken into another realm. Still, if this is the way you get to know this work, no injustice will be done.