Symphony No. 9 (Nowak edition)
Vienna Philharmonic/Christian Thielemann
Sony Classical 19658729902 57:38 mins
Christian Thielemann’s Bruckner 9 is not for those who like a patient monumentalism in this composer. Its opening movement, while never rushed, keeps edging anxiously forward, with frequent tempo tweaks suggesting existential unrest and an underlying emotional febrility. The Vienna Philharmonic strings are especially impressive, incisively nuanced in the tremolandos of the Symphony’s opening paragraph, and scarifying in the heavy-booted brass episode mid-movement.
Unusual amounts of piquant woodwind detail surface in Thielemann’s fleet-footed Scherzo, especially in a virtually frolicsome account of the Trio. And while there’s trenchancy in the movement’s outer sections, there’s also a nimble, Mendelssohnian lightness which keeps the music refreshingly aerated.
At 23:40 Thielemann’s finale is significantly quicker than his video recording of the Ninth with the Dresden Staatskapelle (on C Major), and some may prefer a greater spaciousness in this deeply consequential movement. The orchestral playing is, though, extraordinarily eloquent, powerful where necessary but infused with a rare tenderness.
For Thielemann the Ninth is, it seems, less a universal theological meditation on last things and more a highly personal quest for spiritual quietude. His interpretation has intimacies hard to find in other versions, and a vulnerability movingly communicated in the Vienna Philharmonic’s super-empathetic playing.