This CD is the first four movement version of Bruckner's final symphonic masterpiece that I have purchased. For years, I have been used to the idea of Bruckner's Ninth symphony as three movements which were probably perfection in themselves. The slow movement ends in tranquillity and there is widespread belief that the Adagio was Bruckner's farewell to life. This perception has been challenged by some commentators on the grounds that such a valedictory ending was atypical for Bruckner. Irrespective of these divergent interpretations however, at least to my ears, the third movement version remains the preferred version of the symphony. The finale of the four movement version is more like an arrangement, founded on the design emerging from the reconstructed sketches. There is no doubt that issues of harmonic instability culminate in the reconstructed finale. Harmonic uncertainties are persistingly evident. These are somehow stabilized in the coda but the emotional impact on the listener falls short of the typical monumental Bruckner coda such as in the seventh or eight symphonies.
As for the performance, it is as fine as any. The Berlin Philharmonic, as would be expected, is in great form. This is probably the best Bruckner that Rattle has done so far, much more convincing that the Bruckner 4.
Of course, there are great three movement versions of this monumental symphony available in the catalogue. Try, for instance, Wand with the Berlin Philharmonic, arguably the top recommendation, or Harnoncourt with the Vienna Philharmonic. Nevertheless, buy this four movement version for the sake of the philosophical and to some extent musical debate surrounding the incompleteness of Bruckner's masterpiece. Recommended.