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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally - a triumph
Sir Simon Rattle's live recording of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony in 2006 received a mixed reception. I have myself had my reservations, ranging from mild to serious, regarding the success of some of his forays into Brahms, Strauss and Mahler, but this latest release seems to me to be the finest thing he has done with the Berlin Philharmonic to date.

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Published on 21 May 2012 by Ralph Moore

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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New coda a big disappointment
I looked forward to hearing these lastest/last thoughts on the Samale-Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca version of the final movement, at last performed by a top conductor/orchestra combo. In short, this recording is fine, but from a purely visceral point of view, the earlier SPCM revisions, as performed by Wildner and Layer are superior. Why? The ending!

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Published 24 months ago by JB


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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally - a triumph, 21 May 2012
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
Sir Simon Rattle's live recording of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony in 2006 received a mixed reception. I have myself had my reservations, ranging from mild to serious, regarding the success of some of his forays into Brahms, Strauss and Mahler, but this latest release seems to me to be the finest thing he has done with the Berlin Philharmonic to date.

Some have expressed the usual concerns about a slight muddiness in the sound EMI has given him here, although I suspect that has more to do with the acoustics inherent in the construction of the Philharmonie hall itself and the difficulty engineers have in capturing the clarity of a live performance; certainly any deficiency is not serious enough to detract from the pleasure I derive from listening to this thrilling performance.

Rattle has in the past appeared to lack a convincing overview and defaulted into a certain fussy delicacy in his interpretation of composers like Brahms, Strauss and Bruckner who respond to the big bow-wow treatment. No such problem here; he maintains the kind of sumptuousness of sound for which Karajan made the BPO (in)famous whilst ensuring that he eschews the "soupiness" which could afflict recordings from the Karajan era.

There is a massive solidity and a rich sonority about the playing here. I heard one little blip in the horns at 2:41 into the first movement but otherwise the orchestra's virtuosity throughout is breath-taking. I was also concerned that Rattle would be too clinical when I heard him first scud rather too blithely over the descending string figure five minutes in to which Giulini applies a little rubato and makes so poignant but my list of nit-picking was never extended beyond that point as I became utterly absorbed by Rattle's glorious commitment: the climax to this opening movement is both grand and urgent, showcasing the BPO in full flight.

The Scherzo is, in my experience, pretty difficult to foul up even under a merely moderately gifted conductor and orchestra so here it goes just as it should; the lift and precision of the pizzicato passages are a joy.

In the Adagio, Rattle is up against stiff competition from the likes of Giulini in his mesmerising accounts with both the VPO and in Stuttgart but he has the measure of the movement, providing us with stunning vistas as the D major trumpet theme ascends to the summit, aureate glow in the strings for the Dresden Amen and a crushing dissonant climax.

Of course, for many the main interest here will be the stamp of legitimacy this recording, and the performances from which it was derived, confer upon the latest and last version of the Samale-Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca completion of the fourth movement. There have of course been several recordings of this but none this recent asserting that this is the "Conclusive Revised Edition". The most apt comparison to be made is with the superb Naxos recording by Johannes Wildner with the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia but that was made in 1998 and used the 1996 revision, in which you may hear the inclusion of a passage now deleted. Before the Berlin concerts, Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs explained that he and his collaborators agreed to remove sixteen bars containing a pianissimo and a crescendo in the interests of not interrupting the momentum from the beginning of the chorale recapitulation up to the end of the coda. This is a change I regret as I find the original idea very effective; otherwise the textures and colours of these final thoughts could hardly sound more convincingly Brucknerian. While I find the Carragan ending used by Gerd Schaller in his excellent set of three symphonies from the Ebrach Festival on the Profil label to be highly entertaining, I suspect that we are hearing from Rattle the closest we shall ever get to Bruckner's own thoughts. Rattle welds the three disparate themes drawn from motivic elements from the preceding movements into a cohesive and captivating whole. He emphasises the violence of the jagged first theme before transmuting it into a Dead March, then the horns embrace the grand, broad Wagnerian melody over pulsating strings - magical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First-class Bruckner, 7 Jun 2014
By 
Ali Tigrel (Ankara, Turkey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
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.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bruckner's Ninth well served., 24 Jun 2012
By 
JJA Kiefte "Joost Kiefte" (Tegelen, Nederland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
While driving from work recently, I happened to catch some mighty impressive music on the wireless. Although I didn't know what it was, I soon suspected it to be Bruckner. A panel of classical musicians discussed what turned out to be the 4th movement of the unfinished ninth and to a man they were lyrical about it, extolling the virtues of both the musicianship and the composition in no uncertain terms. Although I already have a couple of Bruckner ninths (Bruno Walter & Skrowachewski among them), I felt the Rattle/BPO would make a welcome addition to my discography. After having listened to it twice, I read some of the reviews on Amazon. Quite honestly I found some of them no more than bouts of apparently fashionable Rattle-bashing and nitpicking over the amount of terror the interpretation managed or failed to instill in the listener and the difficulty EMI were having with the recording venue. All I can say is that I found it a very well played, emotionally high charged performance in very fine sound; please do not allow yourself to be put off by the Rattle-bashers and hair splitters and judge the performance by its own merits, which are plentiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious, 6 Jan 2014
By 
W. Cheung "FRACP" (Adelaide, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
It all makes sense! Of course this symphony is not about death, the finale is so life affirming. The last movement indeed contains elements that are of the same pathos as Te Deum and I guess that's why Bruckner suggested using it as the finale. It sounds so very much authentic. Bruckner dedicated it to "the beloved God" and what a masterpiece he has given us. Rattle's interpretation of the whole work, not just the finale, is also very inspiring. I have been listening to the first three movements for over twenty years and I think Rattle is as good as Walter, Giulini, Karajan, Celibidache, and Jochum. If you like Bruckner, you must have this. Five stars!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rattle does it!, 29 Dec 2013
By 
Lance Edwards (derbyshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
I don't always respond to Rattle's rummaging round the hedgerows, but this, from the very opening, sounds 'right'. It may not have all the angst of Jochum or Harnoncourt but it is, I think, a great performance and it does come enhanced with a convincing performance of the fairly convincing realisation of the last movement. One to have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bruckner Curiosity., 28 Oct 2013
By 
David C. Coleman (Birmigham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
As an out-an-out Bruckner nut, I had to get Rattles Ninth with the completed finale. And was not wholly disappointed.
I'm usually a fan of the 3-movement torso of the work which is by far the most popular version. Because I think that no-one can successfully capture the true spirit and sound world of Bruckner. But I have to say the brilliant musicologists/musicians have done a fair job in completing this mighty work.
Hand on heart I would say that Bruckner would have not ended this finale so succinctly as performed here but it must be close.
What they have done is melded Bruckners own score fragments with their own "idea" of what Bruckner may have written down.
I'm not wholly convinced but it's close!!
Please don't buy this recording because it is a great performance of Bruckner 9 - It's not. There are sound quality issues and Rattles approach to the Adagio 3rd movement seems erratic. We are not talking Gunther Wand, Jochum or even Karajan here!...
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spine-tingling, 28 May 2012
By 
Pipistrel (Oxford United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
I have been listening to recordings of this symphony for more than fifty years, and to completed versions since the 1980s, but no previous account has thrilled me as much as this one. The orchestra is superb, and Rattle shapes the movements beautifully, building up relentlessly to the huge dissonant climaxes. The finale sounds as near to echt-Bruckner as one could wish, though nothing can be definitive as long as there is the possibility that some or all of the stolen pages may turn up. An added bonus is that it is all on one CD - a feat in itself! I have read the ten previous reviews, and it seems to me that there is a lot of nit-picking in the 3 and 4 star ones.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Historic Recording, that will change the way we think about Bruckner's 9th?, 22 Aug 2012
By 
Bruce "from Brighton" (UK - England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
Although it goes without saying that the Berliner sound magnificent in this wonderful recording; there is only one topic of discussion here : the completion of the Finale.

Having listened to it a few times, there is a feeling of disappointment, as if there ought to be more. But is that intrinsic to the music or the fact that we have been waiting so long, that expectation has been heightened beyond reason? Bruckner was reaching the end of his life and had no easy answers for us.

My mind has been changed by reading Philip Clark's interview with Simon Rattle in the September 2012 edition of Gramophone magazine. They talk about how the addition of the finale changes the approach to the previous three movements.

Rattle says : "When you investigate the finale, though , it becomes obvious, as in the Eighth , that all the themes must be played together. Then it's only one more step to realise, wow, if all the themes have to be played together, they all have to be in the same tempo, or in a related tempo, which knocks back on to the first three movements in an alarming way."

Rattle then goes on to relate something he heard from Gunter Wand, the great Brucknerian conductor: "Please understand - Bruckner's harmony is Romantic, but the rhythm and form are Classical."

So the challenge now, is to find a basic pulse which fits everything and not like some conductors, to pull it apart or use 'rubato'. The addition of an extra movement changes the way a conductor thinks about the whole symphony, not just the finale and as well as finishing differently, the whole coheres in a way that previous versions have not.

Rattle is not new to this kind of thing of course, as he was very much involved in championing the completion of Mahler's Tenth Symphony. But he explains how there is much more of this completed - of 650 bars, there are only 50 that Bruckner didn't write out in full and his system of composition meant that he filled his manuscript paper with phrase lengths - so the architecture of the symphony's final movement is never in doubt.

Given all the above I think we have to live with this new version of the Ninth symphony and try to make sense of it - give it more time. After all we have had the rest of it for many decades now - it makes sense to give this version a few more years. This will be seen as a historic recording and in that sense it is surely an essential purchase from probably the best combination of orchestra and conductor, working anywhere today.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rattle shocks us with his new Bruckner 9th--who knew he could produce such deep spirituality?, 22 May 2012
By 
Andrew R. Barnard (Leola, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
After finding much to love in Rattle's previous Bruckner 4th, also with the Berliners, I hoped that this reading would seal Rattle's success as a Brucknerian. In the "Romantic" Symphony, Rattle had made his case by emphasizing the work's romantic qualities, letting pure lyricism come forth. But the 9th Symphony demands a certain commitment to a dark world that isn't all about joy. Could Rattle find meaning in a work that throbs with inherent spirituality? And could he make a persuasive case for this new completed version of the finale?

I had my doubts. I'm a devoted fan of Rattle's, considering his Brahms' symphonies set and his Schoenberg disc from last year to be monumental achievements, but I had no small qualms about the idea of a transversal into Bruckner's most religiously intense work. Rattle has transformed the Berliners into a band that shines with a transparency that I'm not sure we've ever seen anywhere else. I'm yet to find a conductor who even approaches Rattle in his ability to make the most out of the most intricate details in the score. I knew we would experience world-class voicing. But would Rattle merely fuss over Bruckner's immense score, leaving us with great orchestral playing but little more?

The answer, thank God, is a resounding no. I'm reeling under the shock of how good this disc is. Instead of relying on his orchestra's ability to make beautiful sounds, Rattle has found dark intensity in the work. Who know that he had such a feel for the long line? I'm not sure if even Karajan betters him in this regard. But what separates him from his great predecessor is his flexibility. Where Karajan is rigid, Rattle lets the line expand, producing moments of soulfulness that reaches into the beyond. I was astonished at how successfully Rattle is able to let the music fluctuate. He understands that there are times when the music needs to stop and breathe. Yet for all his flexibility, he never once sounds mannered or fussy. He knows when to build and when to hold back--you never want to let go too soon in Bruckner.

What Rattle isn't insistent on producing is terror. A fellow reviewer and friend finds this album less than satisfactory for that reason. I can see his point--the music doesn't scare us as with Karajan--yet for myself I feel the music can almost sink in deeper when bombast isn't employed. Rattle is so sincere that the music is often heartbreaking. Instead of frightening us, Rattle draws us near and lets the poeticism of the work move us. There was hardly a moment in the entire symphony that I wasn't fighting the tears. This is music-making on a level that denies the power of words. Expansive and fraught with fervent emotion, Rattle lets all the bittersweet memories of the past wash over us in waves.

The Berliners play with all the authority we'd expect. Listeners are sure to notice that Rattle doesn't give the brass the prominence they usually receive in Bruckner. They're not overpowered, though, just kept in check enough to let the rest of the orchestra clearly state their parts. In a miracle of inspiration, Rattle lets us hear details that we wouldn't dreamed of hearing before, yet it somehow welds into a comprehensive whole.

As for the completed finale, Rattle interprets it so well that it seems that it always belonged. Rattle claims in the liner notes that there's more Bruckner here than there is Mozart in his Requiem and I'm inclined to agree. I hope it wins acceptance.

Rattle as arrived as a mature Brucknerian. This is a huge victory for the conductor, one who has struggled convincing critics that he has what it takes to master the German romantic repertoire. If this isn't success, I'm not sure what is. If Karajan were still here, he no doubt would tremble for fear that his elevated position as THE Brucknerian was in danger. And I'm serious--this is that good.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emperor's New Clothes?, 26 Feb 2013
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
I approached this disc with trepidation.

This is not the first attempt at a recorded `completion' of Bruckner's ninth. I already have Johannes Wildner's attempt on Naxos with the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia - Wildner uses an earlier version of the same edition that Rattle employs - as well as Nikolaus Harnoncourt's two-CD Vienna Philharmonic release on RCA, where he plays and explores the surviving manuscripts of the finale in a lecture-cum-workshop at the 2002 Salzburg Festival. Harnoncourt's sleevenotes include text by one of the four editors of the edition Rattle uses.

So, in short, the `completion' of Bruckner's ninth is in itself old news. But what Rattle states is that his version is the "conclusive" revised edition of 2012. But before moving to the supposedly "conclusive" fourth movement, some comments about the quality of the first three movements.

I do not think I have ever heard better sound quality on a CD: it is superb across the whole dynamic range. However, this very clarity might be the cause of the denouement in advance of the first movement's recapitulation not sounding as terrifying as it does in other interpretations on CD. Rattle's may be too clinically clean! Nor is the denouement at the recapitulation itself as shocking, but at least the Almighty retains his awesome presence on the low brass of the coda: this entry into the coda always raises the hairs on the back of my neck, and Rattle does not fail in this regard. (And, just to set the record straight, the massive discordant climax towards the end of the third movement does just about terrify.)

Now, about the finale. Let's look at the dates of the symphony's composition. The first movement was finished in December 1893; the scherzo two months later; the adagio nine months after that, namely November 1894. Bruckner died over two years later with the finale unfinished.

In his biography of Bruckner, Derek Watson writes that towards the end "his mind often wandered so far that he was incapable of rational conversation", and in the last weeks "there was a hint in his speech of religious mania." Robert Simpson, in his `Essence of Bruckner', describes how Bruckner, at the end of his adagio - which the composer himself described as his `farewell to life' - "may have been faced with an insoluble psychological problem ... intimidated by such a prospect ... [of] reaching beyond that point." Acknowledging the strength of the sketches to allow for attempts at reconstruction, Simpson avers that "there is no way in which even Bruckner himself, let alone anyone else, could have made these momentumless sketches carry what should have been his greatest coda. Even if his health had permitted him to work at it to the end, it would still have been for him a daunting artistic problem, a philosophic and psychological impasse."

For myself, admittedly not having delved that deeply into the score, but taking Bruckner's state of mind into account as he approached death, I wonder whether had he completed the finale, it would have led to a rejection by friends and critics alike along the same lines of Levi's rejection of the original eighth. In short, what I think I am trying to say is that the finale provided here, far from being "conclusive", is a chaotic mess. The finale presented here and elsewhere might well indeed be based largely on Bruckner's own score, but that does not mean Bruckner's wrote cogent music in the last months of his life. For me, the fundamental issue is the lack of contrast between the first and second subject groups, which makes much of what follows after the exposition flawed. But, having said all this, I can forgive the fourth movement anything due to its third thematic group: that glorious chorale.

Is all the praise akin to cheering the emperor's new clothes? I might say so, but I give five stars nevertheless.
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Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 by Sir Simon Rattle (Audio CD - 2012)
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