WORKS: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
PERFORMER: Hallé Orchestra/Cristian Mandeal
CATALOGUE NO: CD HLL 7524
This has been a good 12 months for recordings of Bruckner’s final, unfinished masterpiece.
The last performance I reviewed, a ‘live’ one by the great Dresden Staatskapelle under Fabio Luisi, struck me as one of the finest I have heard, with a sense of impending doom or collapse alternating with passages of ecstasy and ethereal beauty, taken to a point where one wondered if the performance might actually disintegrate. Since this is one of the most desperate works ever written, that seemed right.
Yet there are alternative ways of treating and understanding it which are less disruptive, in which the violence alternating with near-serenity shows Bruckner coming to terms with the warring elements in his tormented personality and giving them form.
This account from the conductor Cristian Mandeal belongs to the latter school, and it is supremely well executed by the Hallé, in even finer form that we have learned to expect in the last few years. The playing is of fierce precision and immense power.
It makes an ideal complement to Luisi’s performance, and though, in the end, I prefer that one, this takes an honourable place among the distinguished recordings that this work has received since its first one in the 1950s. Michael Tanner