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Bruckner: Symphony No.9 (Guilini)

Bruckner: Symphony No.9 (Guilini)

1 Jan 1989
4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 1 Jan. 1989
  • Release Date: 5 Oct. 2000
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • Copyright: (C) 1989 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg
  • Total Length: 1:08:38
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B00467C64Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112,697 in Albums (See Top 100 in Albums)
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Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
Just as the previous two reviewers have stated, this is a monolithic recording of Bruckner's 9th Symphony, carved out of granite it would seem. Here Giulini coaxes the Vienna Philharmonic into playing with an unbelievably rapt tone and with a sense of line that always takes my breath away whenever I listen to it.

The outer movements are certainly broader than is normally the case, but this has the advantage that the listener is able to truly appreciate the luminosity of the scoring and is enveloped in a rarified atmosphere - both intense and meditative. For example, in my opinion the opening minute or two is often taken too fast and played in a matter-of-fact manner, spoiling what is a mysterious and expectant atmosphere where Bruckner gradually reveals the basic elements and building blocks of his musical material. Giulini however really appreciates this opening for what it is, getting the players to build the tension ever so gradually. All sections of the orchestra play with an intelligent sense of phrasing and there is a wonderful variety of dynamic nuance in this performance. The brass are given their head at the major climaxes - but it never sounds raucous or overly aggressive. Giulini is a master at getting this orchestra to vary the tone according to the character of the musical material.

In the scherzo we hear what I can only describe as a chilly wind blowing through the opening section, where the oboe holds the C until the cut-off point. The Viennese players bring an appropriate sense of menace and weight to this movement that is quite intimidating! By contrast the trio section has all the lightness and sparkle that you could want - Giulini revels in the contrast here. How to describe the playing in the Adagio?
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
...but I cannot help myself, even though I know I can add little to the preceding responses. Rather than attempt any detailed analysis, I'll simply share with you a couple of moments which make the hairs on my nape prickle: the Wagner tubas' "Farewell to life" motif at the beginning of the Adagio and that wondrous moment at 19'23" when St Peter's gates swing open and a sonic panorama worthy of John Martin's epic landscape "The Plains of Heaven" lies before us like a dream.

Time is irrelevant in Giulini's cosmic vision; his command of legato and phrasing ensure that we are never conscious of his profligacy. The quality of both the playing and sound - despite being only 16 bit "red book" standard - is demonstration level. (OK; I detected one minor mini-blip from the brass at 3'03"; it was a live performance and even the VPO are only human.) There is no audience noise and you could not ask for more depth or clarity in the auditory picture. I came late to this masterpiece of an interpretation and it encourages me to explore other of Giulini's Bruckner recordings; what a pity he never made a complete cycle.
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Format: Audio CD
It is well known that Guilini has a reputation for taking works slowly but rarely can this have worked to such telling effect. True there are one or two minor changes of tempo in the first movement which are a little bit out of character but these do not detract from the sheer power and superb dynamics of the movement. The second movement shows all of Bruckne's laconic wit at its best but it is undeniable that the final movement, which must be one of the slowest on record, has rarely been played with such passion, understanding and intensity. If you are in the market for this particular symphony, ignoring this performance will only be your loss.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a very slow traversal of Bruckner's unfinished final symphony but, because Giulini is in charge, everything sounds exactly right: nothing drags but, instead, it is as if huge beams are being put into place in a magnificent building. The recording is sumptuous and the sheer power of the first climax of the first movement will pin you into your seat! The VPO play splendidly throughout what purports to be a live recording, though there is no applause or audience noise whatsoever.

The rhythmical exactness of the Scherzo prevents any "lumpiness" at the tempo chosen and this strange movement emerges as an endlessly fascinating flickering light-show of sound: the most obviously original individual part of what is, after all, Bruckner's most personal and disturbing musical statement (yes, even more that the great Symphony 8).

Rich Wagner tubas announce the "Farewell to Life" towards the start of the Finale, and a deeply felt and awesomely articulated movement follows.

This is a very individual view of Bruckner 9. Gripping and fabulously played it is almost ten minutes longer than many alternative recordings. There is a continuing sense of wonder and awe in this performance that is very special. But that said, I believe that this recording needs to be with at least one other in a record collection, like Karajan's wonderful first recording from the mid 1960's Bruckner: Symphony No.9 where DRAMA goes hand-in-hand with structure and mystery (and this disc is at bargain price so buying it as well is not such an over the top suggestion). Giulini's view is the best of its type and for that reason should be in the collection of everyone who loves this symphony.
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