Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor

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WORKS: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
PERFORMER: Dresden State Orchestra/Fabio Luisi
CATALOGUE NO: 88697299642 (hybrid CD/SACD)


There is no doubt that this is a staggering performance, or agglomeration of two performances given in the Semperoper Dresden in May 2007. Stupendously well recorded – to me, Sony now appears to be in the vanguard of vivid but natural-sounding recordings – its impact truly is breathtaking.

Fabio Luisi, who has rather unobtrusively crept into the position of being one of the leading contemporary conductors, has a particular sympathy with late Romantics, and I can imagine passionate Brucknerians who will feel that this is too extroverted an account of Bruckner’s tormented, harrowing last work: it emphasises, in its jagged rawness, its almost unbearably vast climaxes, and its rending gigantic final dissonance before the long laying to rest, the links between Bruckner and Mahler which many people are keen to sever. But now that the two composers have been shown to be very different, it may be the time to show how much they have in common. 

Luisi emphasises, to a degree only to be found otherwise in Furtwängler’s recorded performance from October 1944, the apocalyptic nature of this work. It may be that subtleties escape him – but the End of the World is unlikely to be an event that allows much concentration on subtleties. Those can be found in less extreme accounts, such as by Goodall, by Giulini, by Horenstein, and above all by Wand.


This is a symphony that can be interpreted in different ways, and still reveal its unique greatness. Luisi’s way
is that of extremes, of uninhibited savagery. I can unhesitatingly recommend this wonderfully played account as a front runner among available recordings. Michael Tanner