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on 22 November 2017
An amazing account of a great masterpiece. The completion is utterly astounding.
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on 10 February 2016
The opening passages of this recording of Bruckner's 9th. Symphony with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) provides a firm idea of what will be the approach to the music, and especially to give a foretaste of what is to come with the realised fourth movement. Rattle has commented that Bruckner wrote this symphony at a time when he was "experiencing terror, fear and passion in his life". So, the music is suitably, sober, even a little sombre, as it moves into what would be Bruckner's, and perhaps the 19th. century's, last statement on the symphonic form.
What we have in this recording, however, is the pre-eminent German orchestra and one of the foremost British conductors of his generation. The recording combines the best features of orchestra and conductor, as well as a most acceptable recording quality - a spacious recording that enables the various parts of the orchestra to register their contribution. As he has shown with his presentation of the Mahler's symphonies, Rattle is very much inside the heavyweight music of the Northern European tradition. His dramatic style fits the demands of both the music and the composer. He enjoys directing the long, sonorous passages, the quicker, more quirky musical interludes, the impressive and arresting climaxes, the bold musical statements and melodious connecting pieces that a Bruckner symphony includes. Combine all with an orchestra that plays without a musical note out of place and you have a recording that can be returned to over and over again.
This is especially so with the addition of the Samale/Phillips/Cohrs/Mazzuca performing version of the score of the fourth and final movement of Bruckner's 9th. It is reported that Bruckner had already outlined at least 90% of the score, so the realisation of the fourth movement has a genuine air of authenticity. Guided by Rattle, the BPO certainly play the final movement as if it had been in place from the beginning of the symphony's existence. The performing version should, therefore, present few, if any, problems for the aficionados of this composer.
The highly recommendable, mellow yet persuasive, version of Bruckner's 9th. Symphony, with Bruno Walter and the Columbia SO, from 1959, provides this now-recognised unfinished version of the symphony with a noble, if not resigned, conclusion, after which, in the words of the Penguin Guide, "anything would have been an anti-climax". Rattle and the BPO require this viewpoint not only to be challenged but overturned. In so doing, it changes the whole perspective on the role and explanation of this symphony in Bruckner's output.
The cover note of this CD states that Bruckner left a "stark and magnificent torso", as well as leaving "fragments and sketches for a magnificent finale that would cap his life's work." Rattle himself has said that this realisation of the fourth and final movement of Bruckner's 9th. Symphony "crowns his musical last will and testament with an intense and visionary splendour." The nobility of the third movement remains, but its resignation is removed and replaced with a fuller affirmation of his belief in life.
The final movement of the 9th. Symphony may not be, as yet, as memorable in terms of emotional content as the final movements of, for example, the 3rd. or 8th. symphonies. Nevertheless, this performing version has all the ingredients for a musical feast to satisfy most Brucknerian tastes.With this recording comes the recognisable Gothic architecture of the Bruckner symphony. However, the symphonic output of this composer concludes with the structure being filled with warmth and humanity.
The completed four movement version of the 9th. Symphony is a must for any Bruckner collection.
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on 6 November 2014
I have become used to the idea of Bruckner's ninth tailing off into infinite quiet. It was only a very short while ago that I heard about the recovery and reconstruction of its finale. Having read up on it, It seemed that the efforts to rebuild it had recently reached a point of resolution: that Simon rattle and the BPO had recorded a version clinched it for me. An orchestra with a peerless reputation and heritage in Bruckner with the great Rattle.

The firt three, familiar movements are as good as one would expect - I have not noticed any surprises. Of course the main interest is in the final movement, and it is just totally Brucknerian. Burnished steel slabs of sound, interspersed with delicate wisps of detail. It is a magnificent peroration to his work. Bruckner no longer goes out with a whimper: now he dances his way out triumphantly.

A wonderful reconstruction. Hearty congratulations to the quartet of scholars who realised this..
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on 6 January 2014
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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on 28 October 2013
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. Actually I think the finale is the best played of the 4 movements.
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on 24 June 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 4 February 2013
A sonically magnificent reading of Bruckner's last symphony by arguably the world's finest orchestra. I heard detail missed in earlier readings, helped by superior recording technology, which Rattle has nurtured in a deeply sensitive interpretation, especially in the first and third movements: the Wagner tubas and the lower strings make an overwhelming impression. Like many reviewers, it is the sheer sound experience, especially in Bruckner's valedictory Adagio movement that leaves behind such an abiding impression after several hearings. It is a worthy candidate in the BBC Music Magazine short list for the best orchestral recording of 2012.

Like other reviewers, I have problems with the last movement. Possibly we have become accustomed through tradition to the slow movement ending the work as it does, representing the composer's farewell, ending as it does in those final broken phrases. Does anything more really need to be said? The start of the reconstructed finale is, frankly, a disappointment, though the continuation into the long brass chorale fares better, and the symphony ends as triumphantly as its predecessor. Clearly Bruckner intended that his symphony should end this way, whatever problems this might have caused him. Further hearings have helped a bit, but I am not completely convinced. I think that on most future hearing I shall be sticking to the three movement version.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 May 2012
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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on 22 May 2012
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.

Suggestion: If you want to hear a Bruckner 9 with something new to say, from a conductor steeped in 20th cent. repertoire, I suggest you try this: Symphonie No.9
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on 10 December 2012
After almost 120 years, and thanks to the patient work of 4 musicologist who dedicated 30 years to rediscover in the archives and private collections the music Bruckner wrote in his late year of life, we are able to hear his last masterpiece in a quite complete form.
It is very clear when listening at this CD that sir Simon Rattle did a great job with the music of the Finale, which is frequently surprising and harsh, unexpected and difficult to understand at the first time, but more and more convincing when you hear it more times. He offers a magnificent interpretation of the symphony as a whole, as a four-movements work as Bruckner conceived it. The Finale for the first time shows a convincing Coda with makes a lot of sense and Rattle does his best to transmit all the feelings Bruckner put into his last music. Thanks, Mr. Samale, Mr. Mazucca, Mr.Cohrs, Mr. Phillips, Mr. Cohrs for your magnificent job, and Sir Simon and EMI to allow us to be part of this fantastic event.
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