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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

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 23 months ago by JB

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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three and a half stars for this unconvincing account, though it has its moments. A disappointment overall., 24 May 2012
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
A few years ago, there was a move to oust Rattle as Music Director of the BPO, instigated by members of the orchestra and the City Council which provides a subsidy, citing dissatisfaction with the diverse repertoire chosen by him, which featured far too much French, modern and obscure music at the expense of the conservative audience's preference for the Austro-German repertoire-and of course, there was no Tchaikovsky. A poll was actually held to discover who would be subscribers' first choice. It was topped, I kid you not, by Herbert von Karajan who was unable to accept the post largely on account of his still being dead, but it served to illustrate the thinking and preferences of the Berlin audiences!
At some point, the Abyss was looked into, and the question arose-"If not Rattle, who?" In these perilous financial times, a star conductor with a guaranteed recording contract would seem to an essential!
Meetings were held and Rattle took the " Paris vaut bien une messe" course and agreed to include far more of the Germanic Big Guns other than endless Mahler.
I have always felt that he is uncomfortable with much of this music, never really inside it, and especially with Bruckner my feeling was and is that "he doesn't get it."
However, let us start with the technical side. The intractable acoustic of the Philharmonie often causes problems for EMI, and this is one of their better efforts, if not matching the excellence of the recent Brahms/Schoenberg disc.
There is plenty of rich sound, quite detailed in general but times rather muddy, obscuring essential detail. It is not as well recorded as many earlier issues, including my favourite Giulini with the VPO on DG.
However, it is better recorded than both Wand and Barenboim with this orchestra-the Karajan was recorded in the Jesus Christus Kirche in Dahlem and has more luminous sound but now lacks a little bass depth.
It's not enough for a Bruckner 9 to include a Fourth Movement completion to be a cause for recommendation in itself.
There has to be a sound and gripping interpretation of the piece as a whole. One of the great joys of Bruckner is that his symphonies are so malleable, and with the Ninth I can enjoy the swift long line approach of Sawallisch at one extreme and Giulini's extreme etiolated tempi at the other, and on occasions I am brave enough to tackle Celibidache's Himalayan version at 77 minutes for the 3 movement version.!!
Rattle's approach is "bitty"-so many passages unfold majestically, but so many don't. The first movement works well enough, though I don't agree with Ralph Moore that Rattle captures the deep grandeur of the finale-to me it's just noisy.
As Ralph also remarks, the second movement is pretty bomb proof, from Sawallisch's swift staccato to Bernstein's massive hammer blows of Fate, it works in all guises and it does here too.
The Adagio is the big problem for me in this recording. I fully understand that as part of a four movement version it must be conceptually and structurally different from its position in a three movement version, and Wildner and Schaller both achieve this admirably in their accounts. Rattle's opening opens none of the vistas I long to experience, and I just do not like his shaping of the development and thematic material thereafter. It is not the swift-ish tempo that I find unacceptable, it is the lumpy structure of the whole movement.
Finally the completed Fourth Movement. I was wrongly advised that this was to be in the Carragan completion, but it is in fact the more common SBCM version-more or less, for it's not bad enough that there are versions of the symphonies, and different Editions of each version but that now we have different completions and different Editions of the completions!!
The committee has decided to excise 16 bars from their earlier version, in this their final word on the matter (for now!) and Rattle adopts this latest version.
I will confess that I am a complete convert to the Carragan completion, for while I agree that musicologically this is probably nearer to Bruckner's wishes, I simply enjoy the music in the Carragan more, and that's enough for me.
Rattle makes a convincing enough case for it, though there is some of the earlier mentioned muddiness in the recorded sound.
My feeling overall is that Rattle is not really inside this work, and that as often seems to be the case, he sets himself challenges to inspire interest in the listener-and probably himself. In my view, they detract rather add to the interpretation.
Would I be happy to buy this and recommend it as "straight" Bruckner 9? The answer is NO for there are exalted versions by Karajan, Wand (his CSO version in particular) Giulini, and Sinopoli with the Dresden Staatskapelle to name but a few, and I greatly admire those by Sawallisch, Bernstein (VPO) , Maazel and Celibidache.
For recorded sound enthusiasts the Skrowacewski/Minnesota on Reference has stunning sound.
If you have the astonishing bargain of the Wildner, you need not rush to replace it with this recording, for granted that though there is more orchestral weight to the BPO, Wildner's orchestra is not outclassed in other areas by the Berliners, and Wildner uses the preferable (to me) earlier SBCM completion, all expounded lucidly and efffectvely.
Will the 4 movement version now become "standard"? Not as a result of this performance and I can only reiterate that it has left me dissatisfied and unsatisfied. It's a decent enough attempt, and others will no doubt enjoy it more than I, but I can only write as I find. A disappointing 3 and a half stars.
Stewart Crowe.
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointed, 24 May 2012
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I'll keep my views short. I've been fascinated by the SPCM development of the finale over many years and I was really looking forward to this recording of their final revision. And what a let down! I'm no expert as to the playing of the BPO, it sounds ok and the symphony goes along nicely until the final part of the finale - a change from earlier versions, I believe from another reviewer, done so as not to break the momentum of the chorale. I had to stare at the CD player - I just couldn't believe it.
For me the best SPCM finale has got to be the 2007 revision, as played by the National Theater Orchestra of Mannheim, Friedemann Layer - Conductor. It's really good!
And why does Simon Rattle have to appear on the cover? Why not a picture of AB himself?
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply amazing, 31 July 2012
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Sir Simon Rattle does it again. Along with the BPO, Simon has managed to get inside the music, and bring out colours and emotions that others may have failed to do. The finale is certainly very interesting, and keeps much of the flavour it should do, many will continue to argue its authenticity and value, I myself am very happy with it.

It seems to be the best finish that can be hoped for to this magnificent piece of music.

5 stars for SR, 5 stars for BPO and 5 stars for the fourth part.

This is one CD that will be played many times and enjoyed indefinatly.... well done to all involved.
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8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Forensic musicology, medium-rare with all the trimmings, 22 May 2012
Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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Halfway through the adagio of this new Bruckner No.9 I picked up a book on number symbolism, curious to see what it might say about the importance of 4 as opposed to the more obviously mystical 3. [Order, rationality, symmetry, solidity, earthbound things]. And what about the No.3? [Creation, sacred trinities, birth-life-death, past-present-future, mind-body-spirit; dualities, the soul, and the end.]

I'm mentioning this not only because I doubt the affected concern over a work being supposedly unfinished but also because I think Sir Simon's espousal of the fourth movement completion (courtesy Samale/Phillips/Cohrs/Mazzucca: another quartet to put with the Mahler 10 scholars) has created a new problem and a rod for everyone's back. The symphony now swells to an 83min duration (22:40 against Eichhorn's 30:11 from 1993, by the way), making it more of an endurance test for all concerned, if it becomes standard practice to include it. Despite the Berlin Philharmonic being the biggest fish to tackle one of the numerous completions of the finale - the VPO/Harnoncourt offer a workshop of the surviving pages - on the strength of this recording I don't think a four movement Ninth will become standard.

Sir Simon's previous forays into Bruckner (Nos.4/7) have been good but not great, sinking beneath the prior claims of conductors like Wand and Karajan. Tackling a four-movement Ninth of course gives him a fresh distinction and in some respects I think this is a better recording from Philharmonie than the previous one of No.4. All ears may be directed towards the new addition but a failure to convince with the opening three movements is inexcusable and I found myself writing the words 'industrial noise' with regard to the timpani rolls and brass volleys. There isn't a problem of haste but I noticed episodes of low current, almost disinterest, in the first movement and the third, and I felt the orchestra were playing well but with nothing like the conviction or the passion inspired by Wand, for example.

I note in the booklet Rattle's use of the phrase 'forensic musicology' to describe the 20 years(!) of work on this version of the finale by SPCM. In my lexicon, 'forensic' goes with crime scenes and dead things. Autopsies. What you should know is that there have been numerous recordings of the work in progress, as well as other completion attempts, most notably Carragan's. See [...] for a list of recordings. I feel there are some mixed messages contained in the CD booklet: Bruckner as radical yet progressive tonality is too great a leap to be credible. Really? The adagio signals with its return to the beginning tempo that a grand finale must follow. Really? Carragan's version 'analytically deductive and compositionally liberal', while SPCM offer an 'arrangement, founded on the design emerging from the reconstructed sketches'. Hmmm.

The Berlin Philharmonic are, past and present, steeped in Bruckner. Masterful and fascinating recordings of the Ninth go back to the 1940s. The fact that they were willing to look at this latest, maybe final, performing version by SPCM inspires confidence. EMI's colour design implicitly refers back to Sir Simon's celebrated Mahler 10 with the same orchestra. The linking of Bruckner and Mahler is for some habitual and it is I think a bit lazy and misleading. It would be wrong to equate the work done on Mahler 10 with Bruckner 9. The finale as presented here is not Sibelius' divine mosaic, more of an old jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing, put together as successfully as possible. The final image? There isn't one. Quotations abound, there's much of the mood of Bruckner's Wagnerian period of the Third and Fourth Symphonies, and in its distressed state it might remind you of the little known first versions of the Fourth and Eighth Symphonies, but as a satisfying resolution of No.9, hardly. A free-standing composition based on the fourth movement fragments, such as von Einem's, might have value as a reminiscence of Bruckner, but despite the presence of Rattle's BPO, this latest completion has no more authority than those to be found on other labels.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dedicated performance, totally convincing., 15 Nov 2012
Mr. G. Saxby (Wolverhampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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I have had Walter's interpretation of this symphony (in its incomplete form) for a long time, and still love it; but Rattle surpasses it in his interpretation of these first three movements. Heis now able to add the reconstructed final movement, and treats this, too, with utter conviction. I believe in this interpretation as much as I do in Rattle's version of the Mahler Tenth Symphony.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bruckner Nine - completion, 5 Nov 2012
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I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with this performance of the completed symphony. Fine playing
and excellent sound, as you'd expect.
I was interested to see how the interpretation of the first three movement would be changed by the addition of the fourth
and I believe that any differences are subtle and justified. It might take a bit of getting used to but definitely
interesting and worthwhile.
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Bruckner: Symphony No.9 - Four Movement Version
Bruckner: Symphony No.9 - Four Movement Version by Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker
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