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Customer Review

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good to hear from a front-rank orchestra but...., 24 May 2012
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
Truth told I'd never have imagined Rattle a Brucknerian and other reviewers seem of the same view. His forte is the modern repertoire for which he has done a great deal. To sum up: this is an adequate performance,within the bounds of "average". A few tempi raised eyebrows but no one knows how Bruckner would have altered his score on a final look-over so there's scope for interpretation.

The recorded sound seemed...what? Thick? Above 'mf' the texture/detail become lost in a blurr of loudness. Rattle is happy to balance a tutti in favour of the brass which is to some listeners' taste.

As for the Finale - well, the good news first: Rattle is pretty good. At least the fugue SOUNDS like a fugue (which is more than you can say for Schaller doing the Carragan version. I think most people now agree Schaller's is something of a washout and does Carragan a disservice). This evolution from the SPCM syndicate seems less convincing than its 2007 realisation performed by Layer. In this revision the coda doesn't seem to fit. Nothing introduces it so the last few minutes are just, you guessed it, one grand noise. The work, considering its otherwise enormity finishes on just one short chord. Instincts tell me Bruckner would have done more than that. There are glorious moments, sure, and while no one has a clue how Bruckner would have composed his coda, earlier SPCM constructions seem more likely than this one, perhaps because in deference they pretended to nothing more.

I tend to prefer Carragan's reconstructions. But we're all entitled to our preferences and there'll be many with whom this reading finds favour. Moreover, its performance by a front-rank orchestra at last exposes it to the mainstream. Will this be a breakthrough? I somehow doubt it though I fervently believe the finale needs to be heard. Without at least Harnoncourt's performance of fragments we'd have had no chance to evaluate Bruckner's final triumphal gesture.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 May 2012 13:30:17 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 May 2012 14:06:51 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
Obviously I might be expected to disagree with you as I have written approving reviews of both the Rattle and the Schaller recordings but I doubt very much whether " most people now agree Schaller's is something of a washout", especially judging by the reviews I've read. I do indeed own the Layer/Mannheim version but it's not that well played or revelatory compared with this one. Nor do I at all agree with those who claim that Bruckner had little idea of how to finish or even no intention of finishing the symphony: the manuscript, depleted by filching as it is , provides too much evidence to the contrary and only the coda is comparatively speaking guesswork.

I also wonder whether the reaction of some is not bordering on the spoiled and ungrateful for such superb music-making; certain Brucknerians get very defensive and categorical about how his music should be played and apply unreasonable criteria. It is also interesting how some will attend the live performance and be transported then subsequentlt claim that the recording falls short. I'm not saying that any of this applies to you; I'm just musing - but I am a little puzzled by the wide discrepancy between the different reactions to this one.

Posted on 3 Jun 2012 22:10:21 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jun 2012 13:31:34 BDT
Wildfire says:
Thanks for your response!

Taking your last point first, I reckon I'm pretty broadminded, collect a few CD favourites on the way but have never wanted to buy a boxed set; attend a few concerts here and on the continent. I might flex an opinion about the quality of a performance or recording given a request (as happens on Amazon). Never more than opinion, though. Through several listenings I'm still unsure whether it's Rattle or the engineers producing this thick sound that obscures contrapuntal detail. I've asked around and am given to understand that EMI have had problems with this venue in the past. There's no question that Rattle is perfectly sincere over this although I can't understand his enthusiasm for the quartet of "extraordinary composers". There's also the matter of Rattle doing a fine performance of the 3 movements with the LSO. Why on earth didn't he return to those resources to make this recording? The Barbican has a pretty sympathetic acoustic.

I'm acquainted with most of the performing edits of the Finale on record, performances good and bad, and quite honestly the earlier the attempts, the more satisfying they seem to be - perhaps because they were unpretentious: composers didn't pretend to write Bruckner's Finale, merely join up what was there and add a coda that could pass as Bruckner-sounding. As they progressed their work has increasingly padded out to the extent that the SPCM bunch has now overdone it - too heavy-handed. It's probably the result of a committee designing something. Triumph and transcendence seem to have taken second place; delicacy of line is no longer allowed and, as I've noted elsewhere, I'm possibly prejudiced by the mess that Samale & Mazucca made of the Mahler 10. In short, they've got too big-headed.

As for Schaller/Carragan, some reviewers and associates concluded there was a balance problem and/or the strings were too weak and/or the engineers were too intrusive. The pacing and conduct of the work were otherwise fine. The violins in particular had trouble carrying important thematic material above a mezzo-forte. In the finale the fugue should surely have similar power to that in the 5th Finale. It hasn't. The entries are weak barely defining it as a fugue.

I'm fine about Rattle getting good reviews though mine is perhaps indifferent...because of the SPCM and acoustic, most likely. Schaller's reviews are more perplexing. We all wish he had the resources and team to make something of this work. I favour Carragan and having waited almost a year to get this recording was disappointed. Who knows but a remake of the recording might have yielded something great. However, going by the first three movements Schaller would be hard pressed to beat any from a range of Bruckner "greats" on record.

PS I don't know who put up those alternative images! Not me!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2012 04:45:45 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 30 Oct 2012 05:26:28 GMT]
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