Symphony No. 9
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
BR Klassik 900173 57:10 mins
Despite recent attempts to complete and establish Bruckner’s not-quite finished draft-sketch of the finale of his Ninth Symphony as a legitimate part of the work, it is no use pretending that, in thematic material, it comes anywhere near the level of the rest. Nor does Mariss Jansons pretend: offering the more traditional view of the first three movements as a complete statement in themselves. This new, live reading is actually his second shot at the work. His earlier Concertgebouw recording (RCO label, 2016) divided critics between those who felt it upheld that orchestra’s great Bruckner tradition worthily, and those who complained that its relatively forward-moving tempos lacked ‘mystery’.
Though scarcely slower than the earlier reading, and recorded in an ambience combining spaciousness with detailed clarity, the opening has mystery enough. But more striking is how Jansons’s ‘long-view’ enables him to project the entire first-subject group as, at once, a single arc and an upbeat to the extended second-subject group. Though expressive rubatos and meaningful pauses are discreetly deployed, nothing is allowed to impede the cumulative continuity. The Bavarian Radio SO responds with weighty string tone and noble sonorities from the eight horns (four of them doubling Wagner tubas) that colour so much of the score. The only slight qualification is the failure of the trumpets quite to cut through the texture of the Adagio’s awesomely dissonant climax. Because Bruckner’s Ninth is such an extreme and ‘ultimate’ work, its interpretation will always raise partisan passions, but this is a fine one.